Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has said his election proves that “every proud parent in Ireland today can dream big dreams for their children”.
Speaking after securing an overall vote of 60% in the leadership contest Mr Varadkar said: “I think if my election as leader of Fine Gael today shows anything it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic.”
Mr Varadkar said he intends to speak with Simon Coveney today before meeting with Independents in Government and the Fianna Fáil party in the coming days.
When asked whether he would consider a coalition with Fianna Fáil he said he could not rule it out after another general election.
“I don’t think it would be honest to say that in future we would ever rule out the possibility of coalition with Fianna Fáil.
“But I don’t particularly want to get into the space of speculating about coalitions of the future because we are in a coalition, we are in a coalition with the Independent Alliance and a number of other Independents.
“I think it is somewhat inappropriate when you are in the middle of a waltz or in the middle of a tango to be looking over that person’s shoulder to see if anyone else is lining up against the walls,” he said to loud applause from his supporters.
In the nearer future, the Dublin West TD said he would honour both the agreements with Fianna Fáil and the Independents in Government.
But he added that there are “other things” that he would like to do during the course of this Government and beyond that, which he had outlined during the campaign.
He thanked rival Simon Coveney for “running a spirited, principled and persistent campaign”.
“While we may have had differed on some details, I think there is much more that unites us than divides us and I know that we are going to work together to bring Ireland and Fine Gael forward,” he said.
Turning to outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Varadkar said he has a “different personality, different style of leadership” but would follow on from Mr Kenny and not go against what he has done.
Focusing on his own upbringing he told a packed Mansion House: “My father travelled 5,000 miles to build a new home in Ireland. I doubt he ever thought his son would one day grow up to become its leader.
“Despite the differences, his son would be treated the same and judged by his actions and character and not his origins or identity.
“And so every proud parent in Ireland today can dream big dreams for their children, every boy and girl can know that there is no limits to their ambition to their possibilities if they are given the opportunity.
“So let that be our mission as Fine Gael, to build an Ireland, a Republic of opportunity, one in which every individual is given the opportunity to meet their full potential and every part of the country is given the opportunity to share in our prosperity,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he expects there will be a referendum on the issue of abortion and repealing the Eight Amendment “sometime next year”.
He added that it is very important that Fine Gael is an “open tent” and a “warm house” for all sides in the debate and he would not be imposing a whip on a vote on the Eight Amendment.
Focusing on how he intends to lead the country he said: “As leader of Fine Gael and Taoiseach if I have the privilege to be elected to that office, I will seek to serve this country with integrity, passion, determination and courage.”
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