Government chief whip: General election won't be happening "anytime soon"

Regina Doherty said Fine Gael needs to put the party first as the leadership race comes to a close

Regina Doherty, water charges, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail, Leo Varadkar, Enda Kenny, leadership,

Fine Gael TD Regina Doherty | Image:

The Government Chief Whip said Fine Gael needs to put the country first in the final week of its leadership race.

Today's Red C Sunday Business Post Poll shows the party's now the most popular in the country - on 29 points, up five - while Fianna Fáil is down seven, to 21.

Deputy Regina Doherty said she can't see a general election happening anytime soon.

"It's not just about the best thing for Fine Gael," she told Ivan Yates on Newstalk. "It's not a party line, and I believe Fianna Fáil feel the same way.

"We're heading into [Brexit] negotiations that could have a dramatic effect on the future economic prospects of Ireland, so Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and whatever ambitions that we can have for our parties have to come second place."

'Appallingly right-wing'

It's home advantage to Minister for Housing Simon Coveney as the final leadership debate takes place tonight.

Simon Coveney is still trying to make up the lead conceded to Minister for Social protection Leo Varadkar among parliamentary party members.

It's the final chance for both candidates to debate each other in front of members this evening - and to land a killer blow before polls open for some 21,000 Fine Gael members to start voting tomorrow

The process will take until Friday, when we'll know who the new leader of Fine Gael, and the country, is.

Former Fine Gael Justice Minister Nora Owen is backing Simon Coveney in the leadership race.

However, she added that Leo Varadkar was aiming high as far back as his teenage years.

"I represented Castleknock when Leo was a 17-year-old in a branch, and he was appallingly right-wing and very aggressive," she said. "He was already showing gumption and power."