Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has strongly hinted at his interest in leading Fine Gael and of having a vision for the party and the country, ahead of a pre-Dáil conference next week.

His comments are expected to reignite discussion about when and if Taoiseach Enda Kenny should step aside and allow another party figure take the lead.

Asked again yesterday about whether he would go for the leadership, Mr Varadkar said it was not an immediate concern but he did have thoughts about which direction the party and country should go.

“There is no vacancy at the moment,” he said. “If a vacancy arises, or rather when a vacancy arises, I’ll assess my position at that point.

“I have a particular vision as to what I’d like to do in the party and where I think the country should go. I’d have to see at that time whether there is sufficient support for that. It’s not the time for that now. The focus is on my job in Social Protection.”

However, his admission that he has a particular vision on what path Fine Gael should take ahead of the party’s think-in next week will raise eyebrows.

The Fine Gael pre-Dáil conference in Newbridge, Kildare, is expected to see TDs, senators, and MEPs discuss next month’’s budget, Brexit and the recent Apple tax ruling among matters.

While much of the conference will be held behind closed doors, ministers are also expected to discuss two internal party reports carried out on Fine Gael’s disappointing general election results.

Mr Varadkar already made some radical suggestions earlier in the summer. Speaking at the MacGill summer school, he suggested dole payments could be index-linked.

Mr Varadkar yesterday, speaking in Dublin Castle to reporters, said that disagreement at Cabinet about the controversial Apple tax ruling had restored his faith in the minority government.

He said the coalition so far had been a “learning curve for everyone” and not just Independent ministers.

“I don’t think it was necessarily a bad thing to delay a couple of days before deciding whether to appeal,” he said. “The differences of opinion that have occurred over the Apple appeal and the abortion legislation before the summer break has helped us to learn how better we can communicate with each other and work together.”.


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