Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has welcomed the findings of an opinion poll showing strong support for him to become the next leader of Fine Gael, also stressing that his party was “not afraid” of Fianna Fáil.
He was speaking in Skibbereen at the opening of a new constituency office for his party colleague, Cork South West TD Jim Daly, who was among those urging Enda Kenny to step aside in recent months.
Yesterday’s Paddy Power/Red C poll showed a small increase in support for Fine Gael, up 1 percentage point to 27%, just a point behind Fianna Fáil.
The same poll showed a significant drop in the percentage of people who want Enda Kenny to step aside, and indicated that Mr Varadkar is the clear frontrunner to replace him as party leader, with 45% of Fine Gael voters backing him ahead of other contenders such as Simon Coveney and Frances Fitzgerald.
Mr Varadkar said: “I suppose it’s always nice to be getting favourable feedback from the public and good numbers in opinion polls, but there is no vacancy and it’s up to the Taoiseach to decide when the vacancy arises and until then I am concentrating on my job and getting the work done in the Department of Social Protection.
“The position is as I have said it is for a number of months now, [which] is that Enda Kenny has said that he isn’t going to lead Fine Gael into the next general election, but it’s up to him to decide when the vacancy arises. That’s essentially how things stand.”
He also said if Fine Gael delivers on the ground, “I think the polls will follow”.
“Sometimes when you have a bad week or a bad month in politics people think the trend therefore will be downwards forever,” he said. “But it is not. Fine Gael is going to remain the largest party for the foreseeable future as far as I am concerned.”
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