Old photo sparks trip down memory lane for Leo Varadkar

As Leo Varadkar is no doubt texting right now ‘totes awks — #embarrassing’.

While they are now rivals in the imminent race to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader, it was an entirely different story for Mr Varadkar and Simon Coveney two decades ago.

As he contested the Cork South Central by-election in 1998, a then 27-year-old Coveney was given a hand by a fresh-faced 20-year-old medical student from Dublin.

Quietly doing his bit for the party, Leo happily posed alongside colleagues Emily Maher and Lucy Michael in a bid to drum up support for Simon’s Dáil campaign.

Sporting a red T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase ‘Vote Simon Coveney No 1’ and a badge with the same message, the future household name pressed the flesh to win voters over to his colleague’s cause.

And clutching a — signed, no less — pamphlet of his now rival’s plans to take on his competitors in Cork South Central complete with a relaxed photo of a ‘down with the kids’ Mr Coveney, Leo appeared clear on where his support lay.

The vintage Fine Gael newsletter does not contain any quotes from him explaining why Leo believed Simon’s burgeoning skills were so vital to ensuring Irish political standards in the highest levels of the Dáil.

However, given the fact that both Cabinet ministers are now locked in the slowest of slow bicycle races to replace Taoiseach Enda Kenny, the image of him openly canvassing for his colleague will hardly be welcomed by the Social Protection Minister.

A spokesperson for Mr Coveney yesterday said that the Housing Minister was unavailable to comment due to a private engagement.

However, asked about image last night, Mr Varadkar was open to taking a trip down memory lane, saying: “I did my bit for Simon many years ago. I’m looking forward to him lending a hand in my campaign.”

While Fine Gael TDs, senators, councillors, and grassroots members around the country are keeping their cards — and future career prospects — close to their chest about they back as their party’s next leader, at least Mr Coveney and Mr Varadkar’s can both be safe in the knowledge they each have one vote in the bag.

After all, when have politicians ever gone back on a campaign trail promise...

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