29 May 2017

Speech: Launch Leo Varadkar Fine Gael Leadership Campaign

I've known Leo for more than 20 years as a trusted colleague and a valued friend. 

I know him. Not just from his time as a member of Young Fine Gael, not just as the councillor with the highest vote in the 2004 local elections, but as a man of vision and generosity. 

We all know that he blazed a trail through Young Fine Gael. He seemed to be everywhere. Quite a few TDs looked on enviously at Leo’s profile in the papers and on television. I think he owned a special corner of the Irish Times letters page. And a lot of people were convinced he had a seat permanently reserved in the audience of Questions and Answers. 

Around that time he did a few research papers for me when I was on the Fine Gael front bench. They were fresh, original, thoroughly researched, honest and packed with common sense. 

That’s Leo. 

He is committed, intelligent and determined. He looks to the future, to what we can be. He is a deep analytical thinker with the diligence to turn his ideas into realities. 

There is magic in the way he thinks, considers and decides. It's a great mixture of originality and integrity. But above all – empathy. 

Leo understands the challenges that people and families face in our society.  

He knows that it’s not enough to have economic growth. You have to use that growth to make sure nobody gets left out. 

He knows true equality of opportunity means freeing people from welfare traps or from crushing high taxes.

He knows that disadvantage and exclusion still cripple too many lives and that our democracy is unfinished until we banish both.

His journey reflects the one we are on as a country, embracing inclusion and diversity. 

He’s always been passionate about fostering our work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit – remember, it's Leo who's  ending discrimination against the self employed.  

He’s clever. (I know that seems obvious!)

But he’s clever in a unique way. It was Leo who decided that the way to revive our struggling tourism industry was The Gathering – a genius way to re-imagine traditions like our world-renowned friendliness and welcome.

Leo is the leader to renew and communicate Fine Gael values. He will fight for and articulate them strongly and inclusively.

Leo is the leader to call out the hypocrisy of the fantasists on the hard left, the scripted populism of Sinn Fein and the revisionists in Fianna Fáil.

Leo is the leader who can best represent us on the international stage.

He is the leader who will ensure we continue to use economic gains to transform Ireland into a modern, progressive society with a social contract for our time. 

And you know what? He’s just getting started. 

Ladies and gentlemen. Friends in Fine Gael and beyond.

I am so proud to endorse and support Leo Varadkar. I believe he has the courage to take us forward - as the next leader of Fine Gael and as the next Taoiseach.

Let’s make these two weeks count. Let’s win in a decisive generous way so that we can begin a new journey towards a bright and exciting future for our country and our party.