Leo denies 'love-bombing' FG TDs with pizza and beer to win support
Leo Varadkar has denied he is "love-bombing" TDs to try and build support for a future bid for the Fine Gael leadership.
The denial came after Mr Varadkar spent the weekend meeting TDs in the West. He is also understood to have invited a fellow TD for pizza and beer after a recent football match in Croke Park.
Mr Varadkar previously went to the races in Leopardstown with Dublin TDs and Senators.
But the Social Protection Minister brushed off suggestions that he's trying to build support among party members ahead of a leadership race when Taoiseach Enda Kenny eventually steps down.
Mr Varadkar was attending the launch of National Jobs Week at an Intreo jobs centre in his Blanchardstown constituency when he was asked about his interactions with TDs.
It was reported that Mr Varadkar invited Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke for a pizza and drinks after the game in July between Dublin and Westmeath in Croke Park.
Mr Varadkar rejected any suggestion that this was part of an attempt to ingratiate himself with colleagues in advance of a Fine Gael leadership contest.
The Dublin West TD said because he's been a member of Fine Gael since he was a teenager he's "well-known to a lot of people in the party".
"It wouldn't be the first time I had a beer or a pizza with somebody - or the last," he added.
Mr Varadkar visited the National Ploughing Championships in Co Offaly last week and also met colleagues in both Galway constituencies.
However, he insisted that the visits were mostly "Social Protection business".
He pointed out that agencies under his remit, such as the Citizens Information Board and Money Advice and Budgeting Service, were exhibiting at the Ploughing Championships.
He said he met Fine Gael TDs Tom Neville and Marcella Corcoran Kennedy there, but that "you tend to bump into TDs at these [events]".
He also met Galway East's Ciaran Cannon in recent days and posted a picture online of himself eating oysters with Galway West TDs Sean Kyne and Hildegarde Naughton.
Mr Vardakar insisted his visit to Galway was predominantly relating to his ministerial brief as well, taking in an Intreo Centre in the city, and visiting a rural social scheme with Independent Alliance minister Sean Canney.
He added that Mr Canney "needless to say will not have a vote in the Fine Gael contest".
Mr Vardakar has made no secret of his ambition to lead Fine Gael but has also repeatedly pointed out there's no vacancy for the position.
He was asked by reporters if he's "love-bombing" TDs.
"No," was the blunt answer from the minister. Mr Varadkar is viewed, along with Housing minister Simon Coveney as among the most likely successors to Mr Kenny when he does decide to step aside as Fine Gael leader.
Mr Kenny has indicated that he will do this before the next general election.
Launching Jobs Week, Mr Varadkar said there would be 150 events around the country aimed at job seekers, people who want to change careers and employers.
"They include things like careers fairs, career advice, one-to-one job coaching, advice on CV preparation and also seminars for employers - really letting employers know a little bit more about how we can match them with job-seekers," Mr Varadkar said.