Varadkar speech move to avoid soccer playoff clash

It appears to be Martin O’Neill 1, Leo Varadkar 0.

Fine Gael is considering moving the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s keynote address to avoid clashing with the Republic of Ireland’s make-or-break clash with Denmark, the Irish Examiner can reveal.

While party sources have insisted the national conference will not be moved from the weekend of Saturday, November 11, they have said moving the speech to an alternative time is under consideration.

The leader’s address is the focal point of any ard fheis and Mr Varadkar’s opportunity to address the nation on RTÉ 1 would be severely undermined should it go ahead while the World Cup qualifier is under way on RTÉ 2.

Ireland play Denmark in the first leg of the World Cup play-off in Copenhagen, with kick-off scheduled for 7.45pm.

Mr Varadkar was scheduled to commence his address shortly after 8.30pm but this is likely to happen at an earlier slot in the day.

Traditionally, in addition to the leader’s address on the Saturday night, RTÉ broadcasts two hours of the conference earlier in the day.

Fine Gael sources, speaking to the Irish Examiner, ruled out the leader’s address happening in that slot due to the limited reach it would have.

“Most delegates would be either hungover or still sleeping from the night before and the same with the country, so there is no point doing it at 11am,” said one party figure.

RTÉ was not in a position to clarify if negotiations had commenced with Fine Gael over rescheduling the address.

Another factor for Fine Gael to consider is the Ireland vs South Africa rugby international at the Aviva Stadium, which kicks off at 5.45pm on the same day.

The 30-minute leader’s address is a rare opportunity for a political party to engage with a mass audience in a primetime slot.

Given such speeches happen so infrequently, viewer numbers tend to be strong.

Last weekend saw Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin deliver a stinging attack on Fine Gael’s over-reliance on spin during his keynote address.


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