Coveney: Leadership is about vision, not private issues

Would-be taoiseach Simon Coveney has said he hopes the “commentary” surrounding the Fine Gael leadership contest will be about ideas, vision, and drive rather than any candidate’s personal life.

Mr Coveney said he is not “getting into a formal leadership pitch” until after Enda Kenny confirms his position following the Taoiseach’s March visit to Washington.

“Obviously there are conversations going on within the party, that’s to be expected, but there isn’t a formal leadership contest under way yet,” the Housing Minister said yesterday.

“There is not a process under way yet. That will start after St Patrick’s Day and there will be plenty of opportunities at that stage to outline my views as to how the party should move forward.”

Mr Coveney was asked if it annoyed him that some media coverage focussed on pictures of him and his family, compared with pictures of Leo Varadkar, who is gay, on his own or with his partner.

He said: “I’ve made it clear that this should be about ideas, it should be about a vision for the country, it should be about a person’s record in terms of how they’ve performed to date, whether they have the energy and talent and intelligence to do the job and whether they have a vision for the country and the party that can garner support within the party.

“That’s what it should be about, not about people’s private lives or their family and I think the more we focus on what a new leader for the country and the Fine Gael party can do, primarily for the country but also for the future of Fine Gael, the better.”

He was also asked if he believed the public have a right to know what a potential taoiseach’s family arrangements are.

“I’m not getting into that,” he said. “I’m not going to add to the commentary.

“People in the party who know me well will make judgements but I hope people will be discussing this issue on the basis of ideas and vision and drive and energy and what’s positive for the country, as opposed to people’s personal lives.”

Mr Coveney laughed when a description by a newspaper columnist of him as “boring” was put to him.

“Look, I think most people that know me well know that people like to create caricatures of people,” he said.

“I certainly don’t think I am, but I’ll leave other people judge that.”

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