Clare’s two Fine Gael deputies, Pat Breen and Joe Carey, have indicated they will support Leo Varadkar to take over the leadership of the party, and the country, following the departure of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
Both deputies announced their intentions within 24 hours of accompanying the party’s other leadership contender Simon Coveney during the Housing Minister’s planned visit to County Clare. While standing shoulder to shoulder with Minister Coveney for media interviews, neither TD was prepared to confirm who they would support. That changed by the following morning when statements were issued by Pat Breen and Joe Carey to say they would be backing Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar.
Minister of State, Pat Breen, said he will be supporting Varadkar because, “Leo has the energy, experience and enthusiasm to lead our country and party.” Recalling the period since 2011, Minister Breen said the leadership of Fine Gael took the hard decisions to move Ireland out of a recession and into a state of economic growth.
He added, “the time has now come to introduce fresh energy at the helm so that we can take full advantage of that growth and steer our country through the next phase of its development. I believe Leo Varadkar has the experience, enthusiasm and energy to take up that challenge, and lead the Fine Gael party as we build a strong, fair economy and a just society for all. I will be supporting Leo Varadkar to become the next leader of Fine Gael and ultimately our next Taoiseach.”
For Deputy Joe Carey, the key factors influencing his decision to support Leo Varadkar were: his role as Transport Minister in securing independence for Shannon Airport; as Health Minister, his work in improving services at Ennis hospital, his contribution to Clare tourism and a reforming approach to the Social Protection portfolio.
“The decision to allow Shannon Airport to operate independently of the Dublin Airport Authority created a significant degree of difficulty for Minister Varadkar, but he gave me his full support in helping to secure the future of the region’s most important infrastructural asset,” said Deputy Carey. “He also pioneered the Wild Atlantic Way, which has developed into one of the country’s most successful tourism initiatives, and has secured the livelihoods of thousands of people involved in the hospitality industry in Clare and the Mid West region.
“During his term as Minister for Health, he enhanced the range of services at Ennis Hospital and expanded the operation of the hospital’s urgent care centre. Despite the huge challenges in the public health service and the pressure on budgets, the standard of care at Ennis Hospital is now second to none.”
Deputy Carey added, “I can vouch for Minister Varadkar’s determination to ensure that people who need these services can benefit from State supports. He is aware of the pressures on people with young families and elderly dependants. Benefits for the self-employed, improved childcare support and the introduction of paternity benefit are just some of the measures he has introduced to help those who are described as ‘the squeezed middle’.
“While I have the utmost regard and respect for Simon Coveney, I believe that Leo Varadkar has the vision, skill and social conscience to lead this country into an era of growth and prosperity”, said Deputy Carey.