Republic of Ireland news

Paschal Donohoe backs Leo Varadkar to be next taoiseach

Leo Varadkar is set to formally announce his campaign for the Fine Gael leadership
Ed Carty, Press Association

One of Leo Varadkar's highest profile backers to be the next taoiseach has described him as the best person to lead Ireland.

Paschal Donohoe, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, declared for his Dublin colleague while refusing to be drawn on what plum job he is hoping for in the next cabinet.

"He is the most substantial and capable politician of my generation," Mr Donohoe told Newstalk.

"He has a rare combination of intellect and judgment that I believe make him the best person to lead Ireland as we deal with new risks, and make the most of some great opportunities."

Mr Varadkar is expected to formally launch his campaign for the Fine Gael leadership on Saturday.

Almost 21,000 party members will vote at 26 polling stations from Monday May 29 to Thursday June 1 and the parliamentary party which includes 73 TDs, senators and MEPs, will vote in Dublin on Friday June 2 .

The contest is decided by an electoral college with the parliamentary party worth 65% of the total vote, rank-and-file members accounting for 25% and 235 local representatives making up the remaining 10% of the vote.

The winner will be announced in Dublin on June 2.

Candidates have been warned to sign up to code of conduct to govern their behaviour in the campaign and they are also obliged to abide by data protection rules governing the use of membership details.

The contest will include four hustings in Dublin, Carlow, Ballinasloe and Cork over four nights from next Thursday. They will also be streamed online.

In declaring for Mr Varadkar, who has held the transport, tourism and sport portfolios along with health and social protection, Mr Donohoe pointed to decisions his cabinet colleague has taken on the Luas cross city project, progress on medical cards, reform of welfare rights for the self-employed and mothers.

Junior minister Paul Kehoe also backed Mr Varadkar, the Republic's first openly gay cabinet member.

"He has shown openness and honesty in his personal life, breaking new ground in Irish politics," he said.

"As the political landscape continues to shift , at home and abroad, his forthright style and ability to effect change, makes him the best placed candidate to deal with the challenges facing us."

Mr Coveney is trailing in the early stages of the contest but has the support of Health Minister Simon Harris and around 20 members of the parliamentary party with a large section of the Fine Gael veterans yet to declare.

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