LATEST: Simon Coveney denies he is an 'also-ran' and wants Fine Gael 'to represent everybody'

LATEST: Simon Coveney denies he is an 'also-ran' and wants Fine Gael 'to represent everybody'

Update - 4.05pm: Despite being behind in the leadership race, Simon Coveney said today he is not an "some kind of also-ran".

Speaking to Red FM, the Housing Minister responded to Leo Varadkar's statement that he wants to lead a party for "people who get up early in the morning".

Mr Coveney said: "I want Fine Gael to represent everybody and that includes people who can't get up in the mornings for whatever reason or people who aren't working for whatever reason.

"I want to help them get into the workforce, I want to help people who are homeless, I want to help people who are on housing lists.

"People, of course, who are working and who are paying for everything through their taxes, will always be a big focus for Fine Gael."

Update - 1.15pm: Leo Varadkar says if he wins the Fine Gael leadership race he will scrap Simon Coveney's Help-to-Buy scheme if it is inflating house prices.

The Social Protection minister has joined his rival in saying the Universal Social Charge should not be abolished as planned, but merged with PRSI into a new single insurance payment with greater benefits.

He has launched his policy ideas this afternoon with promises to bring forward delayed infrastructure projects like the Dublin Metro, the M20 between Cork and Limerick and motorway access to the West and North West.

Mr Varadkar said: "It's already agreed by government that there will be a review of the first-time buyers' scheme to see if it's been inflationary, I want to bring forward that review.

"If that review finds it hasn't been inflationary then it will continue, if the review finds - as some people believe - that it has driven up house prices for first-time buyers, I think it should be phased out.

LATEST: Simon Coveney denies he is an 'also-ran' and wants Fine Gael 'to represent everybody'

"I want to use that money for something very particular which is to provide step-down housing for older people."

Update - 11.15am: Leo Varadkar has won another supporter in the race to become Fine Gael leader, junior minister Andrew Doyle.

It means Varadkar now has the public support of 46 members of the parliamentary party requiring Simon Coveney's campaign to win more than three-quarters of the votes of ordinary members.

Varadkar is due to unveil his policy proposals this morning - which will include relaxing plans to lower our national debt, in order to free up more cash for investment.

LATEST: Simon Coveney denies he is an 'also-ran' and wants Fine Gael 'to represent everybody'

Earlier: Simon Coveney's campaign manager has admitted they did not expect Leo Varadkar to get the level of support he did among Fine Gael's parliamentary party.

Damien English says he thought the split would be more 50/50.

Leo Varadkar is due to outline his policy priorities later, after Simon Coveney revealed his yesterday.

Mr Coveney's campaign manager Damien English says they were a bit surprised at how things unfolded on the first days of the campaign.

Damien English
Damien English

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