Leo Varadkar has said his personal and family life should not be an “issue” in the Fine Gael leadership campaign.
Mr Vardakar has also signalled that he would not call a snap election if chosen as the next leader as it would not be in “anyone’s interest”.
Fellow front-runner Simon Coveney yesterday said his focus is on his work as Housing Minister and he would not be “distracted” by the leadership race.
Speaking at UCC, Mr Coveney said: “Ministers like me have a lot of work to do in our own briefs and I don’t think we should allow ourselves to get down into the distraction of a leadership contest that is not even underway yet.”
Taoiseach Enda Kenny this week told a meeting of his parliamentary party that he would make his intentions clear when he returns from his St Patrick’s Day trip to the White House.
Publishing a review of the back to work enterprise allowance in Dublin yesterday, Mr Varadkar said the leadership race should not be about personalities but “people’s vision for the future of the country”.
Mr Varadkar, who came out as gay, in the lead-up to the 2015 marriage referendum and whose current relationship has been the centre of media reports this week, said: “I am not going to make my personal life or family life an issue in any campaign and I hope and trust others won’t do either.”
Mr Varadkar said the confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil would stand no matter who becomes the next leader of Fine Gael.
“The confidence and supply agreement that was negotiated between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael stands,” he said. “It is not just an agreement with the Taoiseach and the party leader, it’s an agreement between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. I was involved in negotiating that, I was part of the initial discussions back that morning in Jim O’Callaghan’s kitchen and it’s an agreement between both parties and it will stand no matter who is leader.”
Asked whether the change of leader could signal a snap election to gain a public mandate he said he doesn’t think anyone wants an election — “not politicians and not the general public”.
He added: “We have an agreement in place with Fianna Fáil based on a confidence and supply agreement, we will honour that, I hope that they would too and of course we have a very good working relationship with Independents.
“I don’t think an election in the short term would no serve anyone’s interests.”
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has said Mr Kenny will continue to work over the “next few months” before a new leader replaces him.
The minister said it had been a “particularly intensive week” for the Government and more intense for Fine Gael as a party but added that Mr Kenny’s experience would be important in Brexit negotiations.
“His influence, his expertise and experience over the past couple of years in Europe has been of huge advantage to Ireland and its people.
“I understand it is the intention of the Taoiseach to continue that engagement over the next few months.”
Daniel McConnell: 14
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