Leo Varadkar ensures D-Day arrives a bit early for Simon Coveney

June 7, 1944 was D-Day plus 1, writes Political Editor Daniel McConnell.

In just over 24 hours, the Allies had landed as many as 156,000 men onto the beaches at Normandy.

They had succeeded in overwhelming the Germans to establish the necessary foothold to win the war.

Housing Minister Simon Coveney must have felt like 156,000 members of his own party had decided to declare for his rival Leo Varadkar, given the pace of early declarations to go his way.

Those blows to the campaign continued from dawn yesterday with a heavyweight endorsement from a man many wanted to see contest the race.

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe was effusive in his endorsement of Varadkar, placing him on a pedestal so high that the Lord Almighty should feel threatened.

“I will be supporting Leo Varadkar as he is the most capable politician of my generation and I believe that he has all of the qualities needed to lead Ireland into a future that has both great opportunities and new risks,” he said.

“I think Simon Coveney is a very fine politician and I wish him the best of luck in his campaign but I believe that Leo has the qualities needed for this particular government now.”

Donohoe added that Varadkar has “a rare combination of intellect and judgment that I believe makes him best qualified for leader and taoiseach”.

High praise indeed. And just to reinforce the message, the two men held a little jolly gathering on the aptly named Leo St.

They arrived with coffees and Leo-branded cupcakes for the assembled media who were only delighted to partake.

All very jolly, smiley, and happy. Leo even managed to quote the great man — no, not Enda, but Michael Collins — when talking of his vision for the country.

At the same time, on radio, Charlie Flanagan delivered another seismic blow to the Coveney campaign by plumping for Varadkar.

Unlike Donohoe, this was a surprise as Flanagan was a clear target for the Coveney camp and his decision not to go their way merely added to the juggernaut of momentum behind Leo.

Another key target to go against Coveney was Waterford TD John Deasy who showed his hand at lunchtime.

Throughout the day, the hits kept on coming.

Minister Patrick O’Donovan issued a statement in favour of Varadkar, former minister Fergus O’Dowd followed suit, ditto Sligo TD Tony McLoughlin.

Coveney, for his part, was down in Clare on a departmental housing gig. Beside him were TDs Joe Carey and junior minister Pat Breen, both of whom have decided to support Varadkar.

Things were so bad that Coveney is already having to reject suggestions of dropping out of the race less than 36 hours after it began.

“I would be doing a disservice to the party if I started speaking in that language and I don’t intend to do that,” he said.

It is not quite a slam dunk just yet, but it is not far off.

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