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FG leadership contest: McFadden backs Coveney, Burke supports Varadkar

Story by Adrian Cusack

Thursday, 18th May, 2017 12:15pm

FG leadership contest: McFadden backs Coveney, Burke supports Varadkar

Minister Coveney and Senator McFadden pictured in AIT earlier this year.

Athlone Senator Gabrielle McFadden has come out in support of Simon Coveney in the Fine Gael leadership battle, but her party colleage in Westmeath, Deputy Peter Burke, is backing Leo Varadkar. 

Following Enda Kenny's resignation as party leader from midnight last night, the Westmeath Independent contacted a number of local Fine Gael representatives to ask whether they wanted Minister Coveney or Minister Varadkar to become the next Taoiseach. 

Senator McFadden said Varadkar and Coveney were "high-calibre candidates and very capable guys" but she would be supporting the Cork man as she believed he was best placed to succeed on behalf of Ireland in the Brexit negotiations.

"He's been an MEP, he's been Minister for Agriculture, he's an excellent negotiator who has negotiated for Ireland in Europe in the past, and I think that's what we need.

"He's a person of huge integrity, a very sound, very decent guy, even aside from politics."

The local Senator described Enda Kenny as "probably the best Taoiseach the country ever had" and said history would judge his tenure very favourably.

"He took the tough decisions and because of those the decisions the country is back to where we are today," she commented.

Deputy Peter Burke released a statement at lunchtime today announcing his support for Minister Varadkar in the leadership contest. 

"Leo is pro-Europe and pro-business in the mould of Macron and Merkel," said the Westmeath TD.

"There are two strong candidates in the race, and I know that neither will let the competition become divisive for the party or the country." 

Athlone's Mayor, Cllr John Dolan, said he was not publicly declaring his support for either candidate.

"I've met both candidates on a number of occasions and I'd be happy with either one as party leader. I'd imagine Varadkar would be the favourite," he told the Westmeath Independent.

Roscommon Senator Frank Feighan said he would be supporting Minister Varadkar.

"They're two excellent candidates, but I went for Varadkar. He's coming from Dublin, and Roscommon is nearer to Dublin. I think he can connect much closer with an electorate who may not be Fine Gael," said the former TD.

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