Fine Gael leadership race "not yet begun"

The Minister for Housing Simon Coveney has refused to be drawn on his candidacy for leadership of the party - and insisted the process should wait till after St Patrick's Day

Fine Gael leadership race "not yet begun"

Simon Coveney speaking to the media outside the Custom House, Dublin | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Housing Minister has again insisted the process of electing a new Fine Gael party leader should not begin before St. Patrick’s Day.

Simon Coveney is among the lead contenders to replace the Taoiseach - who is expected to clarify his position at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting tomorrow.

Speaking this evening, Minister Coveney refused to be drawn on his candidacy for leadership of the party and insisted the contest has not yet begun.

“Don’t forget we have to have the interests of the country first and foremost in our minds - because Fine Gael is in government - as well as the interests of the party,” he said. “But first and foremost we need to provide stable government through this process.”

Asked if he was concerned a split might emerge within Fine Gael if the Taoiseach failed to provide a timeline for his exit, Minister Coveney said: "I hope not.”

“I think and I hope the party will trust the Taoiseach to put in place a process that will then - presumably after St Patrick’s Day - put a process in place that can allow for an orderly and well managed transition,” he said.

Enda Kenny refused to answer questions on when he will relinquish the leadership in the Dáil this afternoon.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and Sinn Féín President Gerry Adams were among those who tried to get the Taoiseach to comment.

Fianna Fáil has said it will not continue to support the government if Mr Kenny allows the situation to become “a circus.”