Fine Gael members accuse leader of stroke politics

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has faced criticisms from within his own party that the appointment of Máire Whelan was an act of stroke politics.

The appointment of the former attorney general to the Court of Appeal dominated much of the Dáil proceedings yesterday and was brought up at a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night with one member stating he was “deeply unconformable” with the nomination.

Mr Varadkar was also challenged on whether he was giving preferential treatment to those who supported him in the Fine Gael leadership race.

In his opening remarks to the meeting, Mr Varadkar said he had not wanted to start his leadership in the way he had, with a week of controversy.

He said the Judicial Appointments Bill will come before the Oireachtas before the summer — if that means sitting for an extra week he would be willing to do that.

Senator Martin Conway hit out at the appointment, and told the meeting that he felt “sorry” for Mr Varakar who was “handed a time bomb in the dying moments of the previous regime”.

Although he claimed many within Fine Gael might not share his views, Mr Conway said he was “deeply uncomfortable” with the appointment.

After the meeting, Mr Conway said: “I am very direct in my comments I believe in being up front, I voted for Leo Varadkar because I believe he appreciated this style. While what I say at the PP is confidential, I am never afraid to express my views.”

It is understood Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan stood up at the meeting to defend Ms Whelan’s appointment to the appeals court.

Mr Varadkar told the meeting he will not give preferential treatment to TDs who backed his leadership bid.

Mr Varadkar made the comment after a disagreement between Louth TDs Fergus O’Dowd and Peter Fitzpatrick, who respectively supported Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney.

Mr O’Dowd said he was disappointed to have been overlooked for a role as minister or junior minister, adding that he needs the support of Mr Varadkar and senior ministers in his part of the constituency.

Mr Fitzpatrick responded by saying there are two Fine Gael TDs in the area, and that Mr Varadkar must not focus on Mr O’Dowd’s south Louth base at the expense of other areas.

Mr Varadkar was also asked about the fact that Attorney General Séamus Woulfe is to begin drafting abortion legislation in tandem with the work of the special Oireachtas committee.

He explained that Mr Woulfe would work in parallel with the newly formed committee looking into the matter to ensure he keeps abreast of developments and also to speed up the process overall.

Taking up office last week, Mr Varadkar promised that there would be a referendum on repealing the eight amendment next year.


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