Leo Varadkar elected Fine Gael leader

Dublin West TD wins vote among councillors and parliamentary party

Hugh Linehan, Harry McGee Fri, Jun 2
LIVE: Leo Varadkar elected Fine Gael leader

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 12:19
    Hello and welcome to our Irish Times live coverage of this afternoon's Fine Gael leadership election count. I'm Hugh Linehan. Voting has now closed in the parliamentary party vote, which means all three electoral colleges have finished voting.
  • 12:21
    The count is expected to begin at 2pm. The members’ votes will be counted first, followed by the votes of the councillors, and finally the votes of the parliamentary party members, with a declaration expected before 6pm.

    The result of each vote will be declared after it is counted.
  • 12:27

  • 12:29

    Our political editor, Pat Leahy:

    "The parliamentary party comprises 65 per cent of the votes in the leadership contest and the councillors 10 per cent, with the remaining 25 per cent decided by the members. Mr Varadkar’s present level of declared support gives him 46 per cent of the votes even before the votes of the membership are counted."

    Read Pat's full piece here.

  • 12:36

    My colleague Fiach Kelly signs off on his much-loved Fine Gael tracker by thanking all the little people who made it possible.


  • 12:48

    Fiach's tracker of voting intention of the parliamentary party and councillors shows that Mr Varadkar has the declared support of 46 of the party’s 73-strong parliamentary party, while Mr Coveney has 21 publicly promised votes. Six are undeclared.

    Varadkar also has the support of 119 councillors, with 74 backing  Coveney and 42 undeclared.

    Even if there is a massive majority for Coveney in the membership section of the vote, he would still need a number of those declared Varadkar supporters to have switched to him in the secrecy of the ballot. If that happens, it would be the most dramatic reversal in the history of Irish political parties. And it would also surely have consequences for party unity. But we'll see.....

  • 12:54

    By the way, you can contact me at hlinehan@irishtimes.com or get in touch via Twitter @hlinehan.  


  • 13:03
    It's reported by RTE that just over half the party membership of 21,000 have cast ballots.
  • 13:06

  • 13:07

  • 13:16


  • 13:17

  • 13:36

  • 13:40

    Here's a chat I had with Mary Minihan and sarah Bardon from our political team this week about how this is all likely to play out.

  • 14:20
    Early reports from the Mansion House suggest there's been a slight delay in opening ballot boxes. Conspiracy theorists are saying the party wants to get its timing just right for a result on the six o'clock news. Have these people never heard of liveblogs?
  • 14:24

    Almost exactly 15 years ago, when the last change of Fine Gael leader was happening, the following letter appeared on the Irish Times Letters page:

    Sir, - We are the two Young Fine Gael delegates who sucessfully proposed the new system for electing the Leader of Fine Gael. We feel shocked, appalled and betrayed at the decision of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party to elect a successor to Michael Noonan under the old, undemocratic system.
    More than ever, Fine Gael needs to consults members and councillors across the country about the future of the party and its leadership. Clearly, the rump 31 TDs and the 14 unelectables from the fag-end of a Senate have learned nothing from Fine Gael's mauling at the polls.
    As we write, candidates for the Leadership are already sowing the seeds of Fine Gael's next election defeat by trading votes for votes with senators determined to make it back to Leinster House at any cost. The decision of the parliamentary party to decide the future of Fine Gael alone and behind closed doors is a disgrace and demonstrates their contempt both for the loyal Fine Gael membership and the 400,000 or so electors who voted for them. Shame on you all. - Yours, etc.,
    Young Fine Gael;
    Dublin West
    Constituency Organiser,
    Upper Mount Street,
    Dublin 2.

  • 14:28

  • 15:02

    Tweet of the day (so far) from Labour senator Ged Nash.

  • 15:03

  • 15:04

  • 15:11
    Sarah Bardon at the Mansion House tells us results are expected to begin to arrive at 4.30pm. The membership will be known at that stage,  

    The final result is expected to be unveiled at 5.30pm.

  • 15:18

  • 15:19

  • 15:29
    As of right now, tallies are putting Coveney with a two-to-one lead over Varadkar in the membership vote (that's a bigger margin than the 60 to 65 per cent estimated for him a few minutes ago. One tally has Coveney at 68 per cent. The people who crunch the numbers say that Coveney needs 70 per cent of the membership plus six members of the parliamentary party to switch to him. So it still looks pretty unlikely. But you never know....
  • 15:31
    Harry McGee writes
    It's no big surprise Simon Coveney will take the members vote but the margin will leave the Varadkar camp slightly uncomfortable. This college will take the longest as there are approximately 10,000 votes. The two other colleges will be much quicker. Less than 200 of the 235 councillors have voted. And then there are only 73 parliamentarians.
    These would be the equivalent of the superdelegates.
    That gap in the mebership vote - running at about 65 per cent to 35 per cent by my reckoning - is the first big surprise.
    The only other possible surprise is if some parliamentarians withdraw their support.
    But it's never going to be enough to upset, as Bertie said, the apple tart.

  • 15:42

    Hugh Linehan writes

    Fiach Kelly looked at the composition of the party memberhship. The full article is here.  

    Here's a taste:

    More than one-third of Fine Gael members eligible to vote in the party’s leadership contest are based in Minister for Housing Simon Coveney’s Munster heartland.

    Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar’s Dublin base accommodates just under 10 per cent of the 21,000-strong electorate entitled to cast their ballots from next Monday. However, the other Leinster counties are home to 32 per cent of the membership.
    This includes areas of the country with strong clusters of party members and where Mr Varadkar has already secured the backing of local TDs.

  • 15:45
    Harry McGee writes...
    They are taking a break at present from the counting. They have opened 10 of the 26 boxes from members so far.
    We were not told where where they came from but the results from some of the boxes give a good indication. One box showed 82 per cent support for Coveney which suggests a Cork constituency. Another was 50-50 which could be Leinster or Connacht-Ulster.
    According to Coveney's people he has amassed a big lead among the members.
    The reckon he has pulled 69 per cent of the vote from the first 10 boxes.
    Now, it could very well be the bulk of those may have come from Munster where the Minister for Housing is strong.
    But if he repeats this in the other 16 boxes, Varadkar's winning gap will be considerably smaller than was once predicted.
  • 15:48

  • 15:54
    Harry McGee writes
    The strong showing of Coveney among the members does not put victory for him beyond the bounds of possibility.
    If he wins 70 per cent of the membership and the councillors break 50-50, then 31 becomes the magic number among the parliamentary party, according to his people.
    It's still a long shot.
  • 15:58
    Sarah Bardon has been talking to Minister for Health Simon Harris, who said it is encouraging to see Mr Coveney performing well with the membership.

    Mr Harris said: "These were the heart and soul of the party exercising their franchise. The current tallies are encouraging but we still have some way to go."

  • 16:02

  • 16:09

  • 16:18
    Coveney supporter Simon Harris tells Newstalk that he is not concerned for his job and whoever is leader will get his full support.
  • 16:32

    Here's my colleagure Ronan McGreevy's preview of what happens once this election is concluded:

    Once the result is announced, the loser will first make a speech followed by the victor. The victor will then hold a press conference.
    He will automatically become the new Fine Gael leader, succeeding Enda Kenny who remains on as Taoiseach until the Dáil elects a new Taoiseach.

    When do we get a new Taoiseach?
    The Dáil does not sit next week so the new party leader will seek the support of the Independents in his bid to become taoiseach.
    He will also need the support of Fianna Fáil through the party’s confidence and supply agreement.
    The Independents and Fianna Fáil have stated that their agreements are with Fine Gael and not the leader. They will not oppose the election of the new Fine Gael leader as taoiseach.

    What will happen to Enda Kenny?
    The Taoiseach effectively stepped down from his role of party leader when he made the announcement on May 17th that he was retiring as Taoiseach.
    He will accompany an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to Chicago on Monday and Tuesday.
    On Wednesday he will attend the centenary commemorations for the Battle of Messines Ridge in Belgium, his last foreign trip as Taoiseach.
    He will remain on as Taoiseach until the Dáil next sits on Tuesday, June 13th, when it is expected that his replacement will be chosen.
    And the Cabinet?
    There is an expectation in political circles that the new leader will reshuffle the Cabinet, with the expecation that the new taoiseach will favour those TDs who publicly declared that they were supporting him.

  • 16:33
    Harry McGee writes...
    It's clear that many of the early boxes were Munster boxes because the gap between Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney has narrowed.
    With 80 per cent of the boxes open, Coveney is ahead 62 per cent to 38 per cent with the membership.
    It's still a commanding lead but he would need to have scored over 70 per cent of the membership vote if he has any hope of overturning Varadkar's massive lead in the parliamentary party.
  • 16:34
    A lot of Fine Gael grandees in attendance this afternoon including Alan Dukes and Frank Flannery.
  • 16:42

    This just in from Sarah Bardon at the count:

    Mr Varadkar's tallies suggest the gap in the membership vote is closing to 62: 38 for Mr Coveney.

  • 16:47

  • 16:58

    If only this were true.

  • 17:00

    Final and complete tally:

    Coveney 65 per cent

    Varadkar 35 per cent

  • 17:02
    Harry McGee writes
    The count of the membership's votes is now nearing completion and they are getting ready to count the votes from the second college, that of the councillors.
    That's only about 200 votes and has a 10 per cent weighting.
    That count will only take 20 minutes.
    Then we go to the third college which is the 73-strong parliamentary party. That will take only 10 minutes.
    Even now with a big lead among the membership, it would be a huge huge shock if Simon Coveney were to challenge Leo Varadkar.
    We are still (just about) on schedule for a 6pm announcement.

  • 17:09

    Hugh Linehan writes

    And here's an indication of how the councillors may vote (remember, they're 10 per cent of the total).

  • 17:17

  • 17:18
    We are almost ready for the first count.
    The state of play.
    With 65 per cent of the membership vote, Simon Coveney will have 16.25 per cent of the overall vote. Just a little over half of the councillor votes would bring his overall tally to 21 per cent.
    That would mean he would need to take a further 30 per cent of the overall vote to win. That would require him winning at least 33 and possibly 34 votes out of 73 from the parliamentary party.
    That's just a little too much.
  • 17:26
    Harry McGee wirtes.

    It's not going to finish by six. LIke all counts, you have to provide for long delays!
  • 17:39

    This from Sarah Bardon:

    Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has said he is feeling pretty good as he arrived at the MansionHouse with his wife Ruth.  

  • 17:41

    Coveney tells Sarah Bardon the contest is not over yet.

  • 17:48
    Result of the members' ballot:  Coveney 7,051 votes Varadkar 3772 votes  
  • 17:51

  • 17:56
    Harry McGee writes
    Coveney has got just a smidgen over 65 per cent of the membership vote.
    Will justify his decision to focus on the membership when the parliamentary college swayed so heavily towards Varadkar.
    It still requires him to get at least five Varadkar pledgers to switch allegiance. That's too hard a task.
  • 17:57
    Harry McGee writes
    The mercury in the moodometer has certainly risen in the past few hours.
    A lot of excitement around the place.
  • 18:01
    Harry McGee writes
    Just to recap, the total valid was 10,823 members of whihc
    7,051 voted for Coveney and 3,772 for Varadkar.
    There is certainly a big disconnect between the members and their political representative.
    Fianna Fáil has introduced a new system of one-member one-vote which could theoretically yield a result that runs contrary to the wishes of the parliamentary party.
    As we have seen, this has caused problems in Britain with the Corbyn leadership of Labour.
    But then, a lot of those who voted for him joined the party specifically to push for his leadership bid.
  • 18:02
    The other two counts should be much shorter.. and unless we are all sleepwalking, should both go the other way: the councillors marginally and the parliamentary party conclusively.
  • 18:07

    Early indications from the councillors' vote. A tally puts it at Varadkar 122 and Coveney 99

  • 18:09

    COUNCILLORS RESULT Coveney 100 Varadkar 123

  • 18:10

  • 18:13
    That means Coveney got 44.85 per cent and Varadkar received 55.15 per cent of the councillors' votes.
  • 18:15
    Harry McGee writes
    The second count sees Leo Varadkar take 55 per cent of the councillors vote, taking 123 out of the 223 votes. Coveney received 100 votes, or 45 per cent.
    That means that Coveney now has 20.65 per cent of the overall vote and will need to win 30 per cent more to win.
  • 18:17
    RTE reporting tallies showing 51 votes for Varadkar and 22 for Coveney.
  • 18:19

    It's (nearly) official: Leo Varadkar is the new leader of Fine Gael.

  • 18:23

    It is now...

  • 18:25

  • 18:27

  • 18:28


    VARADKAR 60 per cent

    COVENEY 40 per cent

    Varadkar is deemed elected as the 11th leader of Fine Gael.

  • 18:28
    harry McGee
    Final result is now being announced by Gerry O'Connell.

    Coveney 40 per cent
    Varadkar 60 per cent.

    A tale of two colleges obviously. Varadkar decisively won amongst colleagues whilst Coveney decisively won among the members.
    It also seems that the vast bulk of the undecideds in the parliamentary party went with Varadkar.
  • 18:30

  • 18:31
    From Sarah Bardon: Leo Varadkar  told the Irish Times he was delighted, humbled and honoured to be  elected.
  • 18:33

    Simon Coveney now speaking.

    Pays tribute to 'extraordinary work' of Enda Kenny over 15 years. Says election has been a fantastic process and experience. Hope it's given an opportunity to look in the mirror.

  • 18:34
    Coveney: 'My message is very clear, it's one of unity. This is a great party that founded the State. We're going to move on to build a stronger, better country.'
  • 18:34
    Coveney: 'A competitive and sometimes sparky contest'.
  • 18:34
    Harry McGee writes
    Simon Coveney in his concession speech has focused on unity.
  • 18:35
    My intrepid colleague Sarah Bardon was the first to get a quote from Leo Varadkar: He told the Irish Times he was delighted, humbled and honoured to be elected leader, she reports.
  • 18:35
    Simon  Coveney thanks his campaign team, led by Damien English. Also thanks his family for their support and 'putting up with an extraordinary amount of stress'.
  • 18:37
    Harry McGee writes
    Simon Coveney is now paying tribute to Leo Varadkar, saying he will work with him side by side to make sure of success.
    "I's not only be a conversation for Fine Gael but also one for the country... Fine Gael has outdone itself. We have elected a new leader. It's a decisive result. We should all recognised that and move forward with Leo and his leadership."
  • 18:38

  • 18:41
    Harry McGee writes
    Leo Varadkar pays tribute to his predecessor Enda Kenny saying he has given the country back its self-belief as a nation.
    He also thanks Simon Coveney who he says has won the admiration of Fine Gael for running a spirited and consistent campaign.
  • 18:45
    Harry McGee writes
    It was a short speech but touched on key points that will mark Leo Varadkar's period as taoiseach, summarised by his emphasis on being economically liberal and being socially liberal.
  • 18:48
    Harry McGee writes...
    We are still trying to get over the double shock of a bigger victory for Coveney with the membership and then Varadkar romping home with the parliamentary part.
    Looks like all but one of Sean Kelly, Michael Creed,Enda Kenny, Michael Noonan,, Bernard Durkan and Martin Heyden voted for Varadkar.
  • 18:56

    Sarah Bardon reports:

    Speaking to the Irish Times Mr Coveney said he was disappointed but would work with Leo Varadkar to make Fine Gael a fighting force again.

    Mr Coveney said he was humbled by the support of the membership in particular but was grateful to all who voted for him.

    Asked if he hoped to be Varadkar's Tanaiste, Mr Coveney said he was not considering anything like that tonight.

    He was hoping to meet with Mr Varadkar tomorrow to discuss the future of the party.

  • 19:16
    Harry McGee writes.
    Another video, this is from Thursday when Enda O'Dowd and I met Leo Varakdar.
  • 19:16
    Press conference with new Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar will being shortly. Scheduled to last for half an hour.
  • 19:20
    Harry McGee writes:
    Looking at the headlines from around the world, most of the coverage is focusing on Leo Varadkar's sexuality, saying that Ireland is about to appoint its first gay leader.
    Here is opening paragraph of Ed O"Loughlin's report for The New York Times:
    "DUBLIN — A gay son of an Indian immigrant is now all but certain to become the next prime minister of Ireland, a country that has rapidly been leaving its conservative Roman Catholic social traditions behind."

  • 19:28

  • 19:39
    So, the press conference is just starting now and Martin Heyden introduces Leo Varakdar.
  • 19:43
  • 19:47
    Harry McGee writes
    In a wide ranging press conference Leo Varadkar has praised Ireland and has said he hopes any child growing up in Ireland can get inspiration from his own "unusual" story. Talking about an Ireland without prejudice.
    Has now told my colleague Pat Leahy he has just got a letter from Theresa May congratulating him.
    He has said he will honour the agreements with Fianna Fáil and with the Independent Alliance.
    Has also revealed he spoke by phone with Arlene Foster.
  • 19:50
    Harry McGee writes
    He has also said that Brexit is the most pressing priority.
    Leo Varadkar has now moved on to talk about Northern Ireland.
    He has emphasised the need for the Executive to be formed.
    He is also talking about the special status of Northern Ireland.

    "As regards Britain, it has always been the view of the party that Britain should not be punished."
    He says in a hard Brexit, Ireland will be a loser.
    He argues that a free trade agreement and the Common Travel Area are very important to Ireland. "We are keen to retain those relationships."
  • 19:51
    Harry McGee writes:
    "I had faith in my colleagues when they said they would support me and they did.
    "It's never possible to promote all the people you want to promote... Inevitably it's not possible to satisfy all the wishes of all I want to promote."
  • 19:54
    Leo Varadkar is now being asked whether his liberal views on abortion contributed to the loss of the membership.
    "I think that what happened is that Minister Coveney won the admiration by the party membership by staying in the contest."
    He accepts that some members were not happy that so many TDs, Senators, MEPs and councillors declared early, depriving them of a vote.

    "I have no doubt that they will rally behind me."

    He has said the Government retains confidence in Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.
  • 19:57
    harry McGee writes.
    Leo Varadkar is clearly not overawed by his change of status.
    He has very clear and detailed views about his priorities and his ideas for the party.
    He has turned to reforming the party.
    He said that younger people don't engage in the traditional branch structure based around the parish or branch. He said that there are new structures to be explored around the workplace or around social media groups.
  • 19:58
    Harry McGee writes
    Leo Varadkar does not accept there is a 'split' between parliamentary party and its membership.
    He points out that the result was decisive and it has been accepted by his rival.
    He says he would be happy with the Independent Alliance remain in their existing positions.
    "I will of course be meeting with Independent Ministers in the next few days."
  • 20:01
    Harry McGee writes
    Now question on how he will be different from Enda Kenny.
    "We are the same Government," is his response.
    "Look at where we were six years ago and look at us now and look at other countries such as Greece.
    "If I can be as good a leader as he has been I would be very happy to match that level."
    But he goes on to talk about the generational change.
    "We are also moving into a different period. We have come through a very difficult decade where we were in recession," he says.
    He says the next 10 years will be very different.
  • 20:03
    Harry McGee
    Leo Varadkar says there will be a referendum on abortion next year. He says that Fine Gael is a "big tent" on this issue and says he does not intend to impose a three-line whip.
  • 20:05
    Harry McGee writes
    Leo Varadkar has spoken to Enda Kenny twice today.
    "We have agreed to talk in the next few days about the transition and any role he may play in the future."
    Allows him to say that Kenny might have a role.
  • 20:08
    Harry McGee
    Question from Japanese journalist.
    He wants to ratify the UN Convention on Disability this year and wants to improve Ireland's record on this.

    He is not going to say how many terms he is going to serve.

    He says he has made no decision on restructuring any of the Government Departments.
    This is a reference to the rumours that Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform might be emerged.

    Now Varadkar is asked is he maturing. He says he is a poltician who "is still evolving and I hope to continue to evolve."
  • 20:09
    Leo Varadkar is now asked about Donald Trump withdrawing the US from the Paris Accord.
    "Whether you are from Pittsburgh or Paris or Portlaoise we all breathe the same air. "
    He says there is no case for renegotiation.
    He criticises the US decision and says he is disappointed.
  • 20:11
    Harry McGee writes
    Would you go into Fianna Fáil as an equal partner?
    "I don't want to get into the space of speculating about coalitions in the future.

    "It's not good when you are in the middle of a waltz or a tango to see who else is lining up against the wall."
  • 20:21
  • 20:21
  • 20:21
  • 20:24
    That's it for the Live blog, on a day when Leo Varadkar won the leadership contest by a decisive 20 point margin over Simon Coveney.
    He will become the 13th Taoiseach of this State next week.
    It's a generational change and more than that. He is the first gay leader of the country, and the son of an Indian immigrant, and it's a sign of a changed society when few people here make any deal of an of that.
    Thanks to all who contributed especially co-anchor Hugh Linehan.
    Good night.