Tuesday 20 August 2019

Wexford councillors weigh up Varadkar and Coveney

Many of the Fine Gael councillors in Wexford are still unsure as to who they will vote for in the Fine Gael leadership race although Leo Varadkar is emerging as the clear favourite.

Chairman of Wexford County Council Paddy Kavanagh refused to pin his colours to the mast in the Fine Gael leadership race, saying he wanted to hear more from both Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney before making up his mind.

'I haven't made up my mind yet to be honest. I see pluses and minuses for both candidates. I'm waiting to hear a bit more debate between the two of them before I make up my mind. I just think that different policy issues needed to be fleshed out a bit more.'

However, despite the fact that the leadership race is a two-horse race, Cllr Kavanagh said he would have like to see another candidate enter the fray.

'I always liked Paschal Donohoe. I think he's very gutsy and I would have liked to have seen him in the race. But even if he had entered the race I still wouldn't have made up my mind yet.

'I want to see where they [the candidates] see the county going to and be absolutely sure about my choice.

'I'm sure we will meet either on a one on one basis or as the Wexford Fine Gael group with the two candidates and I will be putting forward what we want for our own county.

'I want to see where they see not only where the country is going but also their vision for Wexford and what we want to see happening in the county.

'I wouldn't like to be pinning my colours to the mast just yet until I see what is in it for the councillor on the ground.

Mayor of Wexford Borough District Frank Staples said that while his mind isn't made up, he was leaning towards supporting Minister Leo Varadkar.

'It's a tough one at the minute and I haven't made up my mind, but I'm probably leaning towards Leo. I was talking to him two weeks ago at the Brexit meeting in Enniscorthy and he said that he would be back down to Wexford once the gun was fired in the race so to speak.

'I haven't spoken to Simon Coveney but I presume he will be down to Wexford. Maybe when I speak to him I'll change my mind or know exactly who I would be voting for. It will be interesting to see what he [Coveney] has to say. He comes from a real Fine Gael family so his background is a bit different to Leo's. I'll wait and see what both of them have to say before I make up my mind.'

Mayor Staples is relieved to see that is a two-man race, saying: 'It's a bit cleaner when they are only two candidates. It is good that it will be as clean as possible. The last thing we need is dissension within the party when we are in a minority government. You would be hoping for a quick, clean race.'

Mayor Staples said that he was glad to see Enda Kenny being afforded a graceful exit.

'It's good that it happened the way it did, on his own terms. If there had been a vote of no confidence in him it would have been a terrible thing. I know a lot of people give out but in fairness he did a good job. You don't stay in the Dail that long if you aren't doing something right.

'Unemployment is now below seven per cent and that's a great achievement. He did a lot of good. I know there are things that we'd like to be better but overall he did a good job. I have talked to people who would have liked to see him stay on as Taoiseach and leader until after Brexit had been sorted out and I think he would have been very good at that because he knows the EU leaders and gets on with them but how long is a piece of string.'

Minister Simon Coveney might be seen as a safe pair of hands for the party according to Cllr Oliver Walsh, chairman of Enniscorthy Municipal District, but he said he is keeping his options open.

'I honestly haven't made up my mind yet. I don't know what I'm going to do but I'm say I'm leaning towards Leo. I think he has better qualities overall and I feel he might attract more people to Fine Gael which we need. Coveney would be a very safe pair of hands alright but I think Leo might attract more people.

'I haven't been speaking to Simon yet and until I do that I'll be keeping my options open.'

Like his colleagues Cllr Walsh said that in the long run it's probably better for the party that there are only two candidates fighting it out for the leadership. 'It's probably just as well that it's a two horse race although I'm a bit surprised that Richard Bruton has ruled himself out completely.

Cllr Walsh said he believes that Enda will be remembered favourably by the history books. 'He did a great job in the circumstances for the party and the country. He did a great job as leader of the party and as Taoiseach.'

Leo Varadkar has also made a positive impact on Cllr John Hegarty, although he too was reluctant to commit to either candidate at this stage of the race.

'To be honest I haven't spoken to Simon yet so I don't think it would be fair to decide until I do. I've spoken to Leo recently but it wouldn't be fair to Simon to decide until I talk to both of them. I know it sounds like I'm sitting on the fence but I think we have two good candidates in the race.

'I do think that it will lead to a generational shift for the party which is welcome as far as I'm concerned. Hopefully the disaffection that young people are feeling regarding politics will be improved up.'

While he hasn't made up his mind regarding the vote, Cllr Hegarty said: 'I've had more dealings with Leo and found him to be a very positive person and that's what the party needs.'

Cllr Anthony Donoghue was the only councillor to step up to the plate and nail his colours to the mast.

When asked who he was supporting, he said without hesitation: 'Leo Varadkar. I think he's the better candidate to lead the party into the future and would be a better taoiseach.'

Cllr Kathleen Codd-Nolan is very undecided when it comes to picking her man: 'To be dead honest I haven't made up my mind at all. I haven't been talking to Simon yet. We have two really good candidates and it is hard to put one over the other. Simon comes from a traditional background and that appeals to a lot of people.

'But Leo is looking towards the future for Ireland. They are both completely different characters. I've always found Leo to be a really good listener and a good problem solver and that's what I like about him. Simon is a real grafter but I think Leo can see his way through problems quicker.

'At the moment I can't put one over the other and I need to see what Simon has to offer and what his vision is. We need to know what he has in store for Ireland. The country has changed so much over the past 10 or 20 years so I'd like to see what his vision is.'

Cllr Larry O'Brien from New Ross District said that he had yet to met with Simon Coveney but expected to do so this evening, Tuesday, with the rest of the Wexford Fine Gael party: 'We haven't met Simon Coveney yet so I want to hear what he has to say before I make up my mind fully.

'However, I would be favouring Leo at the moment. I met him recently and found him to be up-front and honest. I think he would be good for the Fine Gael party and that's why I'm leaning towards him at the moment.'

Wexford People

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