Coveney given ‘boost’ with MEP backing

Fine Gael leadership candidate – and former Minister for Agriculture – Simon Coveney, was handed a recent boost to his ongoing campaign from MEP Mairead McGuinness, who declared her support for him in his embattled bid to secure leadership of the party.

McGuinness, who is also First Vice-President of the European Parliament and a member of the parliament’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, issued a statement on Sunday backing Coveney for the contest.

McGuinness outlined her reasons for supporting Coveney, saying: “He has shown particular grit and determination in this campaign, refusing to concede the contest when many believed he would do so.

“In sticking to the race, he has shown a particular passion for leadership and he has also demonstrated an important leadership attribute in not giving up when the going gets tough. He has taken his message to the country – to the membership – and the party is the better for that open and frank debate about the direction our party should take,” she added.

McGuinness stated that she was impressed with Coveney’s performance during the leadership hustings, stating: “At a time when there are deep divisions at EU level and parties seek to divide citizens, I believe that Simon’s message about unity and representing all citizens is a particularly important one.

I admire his determination to bring that message to our membership and for raising the campaign by robust debate at the hustings.

From an EU perspective, McGuinness highlighted Coveney’s time as an MEP, noting: “I have known Simon since 2004, when he served as a member of the European Parliament and gained huge respect for his work on a whole range of issues, including human rights.

He is highly regarded by EPP [European People’s Party] colleagues and many are fascinated by the campaign for party leadership.

McGuinness referenced Coveney’s time as Minister for Agriculture, noting that the current Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government had “worked tirelessly on reform of the CAP, an issue that I worked closely with him on”.

The vote among the Fine Gael party membership begins today (Monday) with the result due for announcement on Friday (June 2). The support for candidates at present is 46 TDs, MEPs and Senators supporting Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection, with 21 backing Coveney.