John McGahon pledges support for Leo Varadkar in Fine Gael leadership race
Dundalk Councillor John McGahon has confirmed that he will be supporting Leo Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race.
The St Patrick’s Terrace man is the latest local representative to throw his support behind the current Minister for Social Protection in his bid to succeed Enda Kenny as party leader and Taoiseach. Local TD Fergus O’Dowd and fellow Dundalk councillor Maria Doyle have both already pledged their support for Mr Varadkar, as well as former Louth County Council chairman Oliver Tully.
Dundalk-based TD Peter Fitzpatrick has backed his opponent Simon Coveney with the other remaining local representatives – Colm Markey, Dolores Minogue, Richie Culhane and MEP Mairead McGuinness – yet to publicly declare their stance on the matter.
In a statement to Talk of the Town at lunchtime, Cllr McGahon said: “In politics you have to make a choice. I have been a long term supporter of Leo and I am delighted to confirm that he is my choice for the next leader of the Fine Gael party and Taoiseach of this country.
“Ireland is constantly changing, society is constantly changing, politics is constantly changing. Leo is the epitome of that change. He represents a generational shift within Fine Gael and I believe he will be able to lead our party with strength, courage and conviction.
“Leo is a social and economic liberal who has achieved a lot in his six years as a Minister, spanning three different departments.
“In Transport, Tourism and Sport he led the case for the introduction, and subsequent retention of the 9% VAT rate for the hospitality sector. In recent years, tourism numbers have surged, last year there were over 9.5 million overseas visits to Ireland. This was helped, in no small part, by the 9% VAT rate.
“In Health, he defused the row over medical cards by putting in place more human and sensible arrangements which resulted in a doubling of the number of ‘discretionary’ medical cards given to sick people who do not qualify under the means test.
“In Social Protection he secured the first increase in 8 years for carers, people with disabilities, widows, the blind, jobseekers, lone parents and people on illness benefit (800,000 people).
“Leo is a powerful communicator, he transcends the traditional lines of party politics and is a leader whom I firmly believe in and am thrilled to be able to support.”
A new leader of Fine Gael is expected by this day fortnight, June 2nd.
The contest will be decided using a weighted voting system across three electoral colleges – the parliamentary party, councillors and party members.
Votes by parliamentary party members (TDs, Senators and MEPs) have more weight than the other colleges. Rank-and-file members are given more voting strength than councillors, but substantially less than the parliamentary party.
The parliamentary party holds the whip hand with 65 per cent of the voting strength, with councillors allocated 10 per cent and rank and file members 25 per cent.
Given that there are 73 members of the parliamentary party at present, each member represents 0.9 per cent of the total electorate.