Leo Varadkar likely to become Ireland's first openly gay prime minister

Ahead of the deadline for leadership nominations, Mr Varadkar had secured 45 of 71 available votes from members of Fine Gael's parliamentary party.

As Leo Varadkar, his only rival for the leadership of Fine Gael, became the early frontrunner with strong support from cabinet and backbench colleagues, the Housing Minister said he was not panicked.

He attended the Clare Fine Gael AGM at the Auburn Lodge in Ennis, where one of his supporters labelled Varadkar supporters as "choirboys".

"Leo is the leader to renew and recommunicate Fine Gael values.let's make these two weeks count and win in a decisive, generous way".

Mr Coveney will visit party members across the country in the coming days and take part in the forthcoming leadership debates.

Scroll back up and vote for who you would like to see as the next Fine Gael leader.

Varadkar said he is keen that the campaign should continue, and he wants councillors and members to have their say.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, Coveney team members made the claim as they insisted the race to replace Enda Kenny is not over and that they were always expecting to focus on councillor and grassroots support to gain power.

Senator Joe O'Reilly and Minister of State for Communities and the National Drugs Strategy Catherine Byrne also declared for Mr Varadkar on Saturday afternoon, following earlier endorsements by Joe Carey, Senator Kieran O'Donnell and Minister of State for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen.

Mr Coveney dismissed the idea of cutting short the contest and said he has never lost an election.

The Newcastle West TD issued a statement this Friday on his intentions to support the Dublin deputy, who is now serving as social protection minister.

And with just 13 crucial votes among TDs, MEPs and senators still up for grabs, Mr Coveney's team have now turned their attention to councils and grassroots members in a bid to rescue their faltering campaign.

She added "We expect the next 24 hours to be a hectic for our traders as already punters are out in force to have their say on the next Fine Gael leader".

  • Zachary Reyes