2017 Fine Gael leadership election

The 2017 Fine Gael leadership election was triggered in May 2017, when Enda Kenny resigned as party leader. Voting began by members of Fine Gael and Young Fine Gael on 29 May 2017. On 2 June Leo Varadkar was announced as the victor, beating rival Simon Coveney.[1] With Fine Gael being the governing party at the time, this election effectively appointed a new Taoiseach for Ireland.

Fine Gael leadership election

← 2002 29 May 2017 (2017-05-29) – 2 June 2017 (2017-06-02)
  Leo Varadkar 2016.jpg Simon Coveney (36268525943) Cropped.jpg
Candidate Leo Varadkar Simon Coveney
Electoral College 59.6% 40.4%
Party Membership 3,772 (8.7%) 7,051 (16.3%)
Local Representatives 123 (5.5%) 100 (4.5%)
Parliamentary Party 51 (45.4%) 22 (19.6%)

Leader before election

Enda Kenny (Interim)

Elected Leader

Leo Varadkar

The electoral system was an electoral college of the members of the Fine Gael party, Fine Gael councillors and Fine Gael parliamentary party members. The result was announced on 2 June 2017 when, at a special meeting, the parliamentary party cast their votes.[2] Varadkar became Fine Gael leader immediately upon the announcement of the result, but did not immediately assume the office of Taoiseach.[3] On 13 June at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, he announced that the runner up Simon Coveney would be appointed the deputy leader of the party.[4]

Varadkar was appointed by the President to the office of Taoiseach following his nomination by a vote in Dáil Éireann on 14 June.[5] He became Ireland's youngest Taoiseach, as well as the first who is openly gay.[6] Varadkar is mixed-race and is the first person of Indian-origin to serve in the role of Taoiseach.[7]


Enda Kenny has been Fine Gael leader since 2002, being first Leader of the Opposition, and then Taoiseach following the 2011 general election. The 2016 general election saw Fine Gael lose seats, and its Labour Party coalition partners substantially diminished. Despite these losses, Kenny was unexpectedly able to form a new minority coalition government. Kenny was weakened by criticisms of his handling Garda whistleblower scandal, and—according to an analysis by RTÉ.ie—was an electoral liability to his party at a time when an election could be imminent leading to calls for him to step down.[8]

On 17 May 2017, Kenny announced his intention to step down as party leader, effective at midnight.[9] He requested that the party conclude the election of his successor by 2 June and said that he would step down as Taoiseach shortly thereafter.[10]


Declined to be candidatesEdit

Electoral processEdit

Rule 49 of Fine Gael's Constitution and Rules[17] state that a leadership contest is decided by an electoral college.[18] These rules were brought in to effect in 2002 after Enda Kenny assumed the leadership, and came about as a result of a motion put forward by Leo Varadkar. This means that this was the first Fine Gael election were the electoral college was in effect. The electoral votes are allocated:

At the time of the vote the parliamentary party consisted of 73 members (50 TDs, 19 Senators and 4 MEPs). There are almost 21,000 party members and Fine Gael has 235 local representatives including 232 councillors and 3 Údarás na Gaeltachta members.

Candidates required signatures of 10% of the parliamentary party, i.e. eight signatures.

Party members must be affiliated for at least two years to be eligible to vote.


Leo Varadkar received the endorsement of:[19]

  • 33 TDs including: Pat Breen; Richard Bruton; Colm Brophy; Peter Burke; Catherine Byrne; Ciarán Cannon; Joe Carey; Jim Daly; Michael D'Arcy; John Deasy; Pat Deering; Regina Doherty; Paschal Donohoe; Andrew Doyle; Charles Flanagan; Alan Farrell; Frances Fitzgerald; Brendan Griffin; Heather Humphreys; Paul Kehoe; Sean Kyne; Josepha Madigan; Helen McEntee; Joe McHugh; Tony McLoughlin; Eoghan Murphy; Tom Neville; Fergus O'Dowd; Mary Mitchell O'Connor; Patrick O'Donovan; John Paul Phelan; Michael Ring; Noel Rock; and the candidate himself
  • 11 Senators including: Paddy Burke; Ray Butler; Maria Byrne; Martin Conway; Frank Feighan; Maura Hopkins; Michelle Mulherin; Catherine Noone; Kieran O'Donnell; Joe O'Reilly; Neale Richmond.
  • 1 MEP: Brian Hayes.
  • 108 Councillors.

Simon Coveney received the endorsement of:[20]

  • 10 TDs including: Maira Bailey; Seán Barrett; Marcella Corcoran Kennedy; Damien English; Peter Fitzpatrick; Simon Harris; Dara Murphy; Hildegarde Naughton; Kate O'Connell; David Stanton; and the candidate himself.
  • 8 Senators including: Colm Burke; Jerry Buttimer; Paudie Coffey; Paul Coghlan; Tim Lombard; John O'Mahony; Gabrielle McFadden; James Reilly.
  • 2 MEPs including: Deirdre Clune; Mairead McGuinness.
  • 65 Councillors.

Undeclared parliamentary members prior to the election included:[21]

  • 5 TDs including: Michael Creed; Bernard Durkan; Martin Heydon; Enda Kenny; Michael Noonan.
  • 1 MEP: Seán Kelly.
  • 59 Councillors.

Because of Varadkar's commanding lead in support among parliamentarians he was considered the strong favourite to win.[22]


The following are the key dates in the leadership election:[23]

  • 17 May: resignation of Enda Kenny, TD as leader;
  • 18 May: meeting of national executive to outline timetable and process;
  • 20 May: closing of nominations for leader at 5pm;
  • 25 May: first hustings: Red Cow Hotel, Dublin;
  • 26 May: second hustings: Barrow Centre, IT Carlow;
  • 27 May: third hustings: Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co. Galway;
  • 28 May: final hustings: Clayton Hotel, Silver Springs, Cork;
  • 29 May to 1 June: voting by members and councilors at 26 polling stations;
  • 2 June: voting by parliamentary party; all votes to be verified and counted at a National Counting Centre in Dublin; result to be announced by the National Returning Officer, Gerry O'Connell.


The Parliamentary Party accounts for 65% of the vote, ordinary Fine Gael members account for 25%, with the remaining 10% of votes allocated to Fine Gael local representatives.[18]

Although Coveney won the members' vote by a 2:1 margin, Varadkar's strong support with the Parliamentary Party secured him a commanding victory in the electoral college.

Candidate Parliamentary Party[24] Members[25] Local public representatives[26] Total[27]
Votes % Votes % Votes % Votes (unweighted) Result (weighted)
Leo Varadkar 51 69.86% 3,772 34.85% 123 55.16% 3,946
Simon Coveney 22 30.14% 7,051 65.15% 100 44.84% 7,173
Total 73 100% 10,823 100% 223 100% 11,119


  1. ^ "Varadkar 'delighted and humbled' by election result". RTÉ.ie. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  2. ^ "Enda Kenny announces resignation as Fine Gael leader".
  3. ^ http://www.thejournal.ie/fine-gael-leadership-2-3422577-Jun2017/
  4. ^ "Varadkar appoints Coveney as deputy Fine Gael leader". RTÉ News. 13 June 2017. Retrieved 13 June 2017.
  5. ^ "Leo Varadkar elected as Republic of Ireland's taoiseach". BBC. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Leo Varadkar: Ireland set to have first gay PM". BBC. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  7. ^ http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/indian-origin-gay-minister-leo-varadkar-set-to-become-ireland-pm/story-0xVa9nBZJUO5EGDqYT4dmO.html
  8. ^ Dowling, Brian (17 May 2017). "Enda Kenny's political career". RTÉ.ie. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  9. ^ "'Let the games begin' - Emotional Enda fires starting gun on leadership race". Irish Independent. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  10. ^ https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/enda-kenny-announces-resignation-as-fine-gael-leader-1.3086114
  11. ^ "Simon Coveney launches his Fine Gael leadership bid".
  12. ^ "Campaign for Leo » Courage to take us forward". campaignforleo.ie.
  13. ^ Fitzgerald, Cormac. "Richard Bruton rules himself out as Fine Gael leader - and will back Leo Varadkar".
  14. ^ "Paschal Donohoe says he will not stand for Fine Gael leadership".
  15. ^ "Simon Harris rules himself out of Fine Gael leadership battle". 6 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Richard Bruton rules himself out of FG leadership bid, says he will support Varadkar - Independent.ie".
  17. ^ "Constitution and Rules - Fine Gael".
  18. ^ a b "What are the rules governing election of Enda Kenny's successor?".
  19. ^ "As it happened: FG leadership, political developments". 18 May 2017.
  20. ^ "Five senior ministers declare for Varadkar as Paschal Donohoe adds support - Independent.ie".
  21. ^ "FG Leadership Tracker - The Irish Times". The Irish Times.
  22. ^ Halpin, Padraic (30 May 2017). "Ireland on the verge of electing its first openly gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar". Independent. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  23. ^ "Process for the Fine Gael Leadership Election 2017 - Fine Gael". 18 May 2017.
  24. ^ "Results of votes cast by the Parliamentary Party. #FGLE17". Twitter. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  25. ^ "Results of votes cast by Members. #FGLE17". Twitter. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  26. ^ "Results of votes cast by Local Public Reps. #FGLE17". Twitter. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  27. ^ "Results of the combined votes cast by the Electoral College. #FGLE17". Twitter. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.