Local MEP Mairead McGuinness has lent her support to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney in his bid to succeed Enda Kenny as the next leader of Fine Gael.
In a statement issued to coincide with tonight’s third leadership debate in Ballinasloe in Galway, McGuinness confirmed that she would back Coveney in the race ahead of rival Leo Varadkar. The Ardee native said that her choice had the “grit and determination” to succeed. She also said Coveney had “a particular passion for leadership”.
McGuinness also said the current Minister for Housing was “best placed” to serve the citizens of Ireland. In the statement released to the Irish Independent, she also said that she admired his determination and said her pick was tough when he needs to be, but caring too.
Insiders consider McGuinness’ backing of Coveney a significant boost as he continues to claw back ground in the leadership battle, one in which Varadkar appeared to be clear favourite to win last week. McGuinness attended a rally in Cavan on Tuesday but has waited until now to declare her preference.
At the moment, Coveney now has the backing of 21 parliamentary party members (made up of TDs, Senators and MEPs – compared to Varadkar’s 46. Louth’s two Fine Gael TDs – Peter Fitzpatrick and Fergus O’Dowd – are split who should lead the party. Fitzpatrick backs Coveney, O’Dowd has lent his support to Varadkar.
At county council level, Ardee Municipal District cathaoirleach Dolores Minogue has backed Varadkar as have John McGahon, Maria Doyle and Oliver Tully. Richie Culhane has opted for Coveney while Colm Markey, also of the Ardee Municipal District, has yet to declare.
Mairead McGuinness, a Vice President of the European Parliament, has had a busy few days. Before heading off to Galway, she spent much of Friday in Ardee – visiting the new McGoey’s Pharmacy shop on John Street before a meeting with representatives from the local Louth Leader Partnership programme, including new CEO Ciaran Reid.