Leo Varadkar will today publish his policy document

Ahead of the 5:00pm (1600 GMT) deadline for leadership nominations, Mr Varadkar had secured 45 of 71 available votes from members of Fine Gael's parliamentary party, which comprises national and European lawmakers.

But his sole rival, Simon Coveney, was forced to deny that the race was all but over.

An Indian-origin doctor and Ireland's first openly gay minister has emerged as the frontrunner in the Irish prime ministerial race.

The 38-year-old said: "I'm absolutely committed to politics".

Details of both candidates' plans to visit the constituency come as news emerges that Mr Varadkar now has the public support of 46 members of the parliamentary party, requiring Simon Coveney's campaign to win more than three-quarters of the votes of ordinary members.

Enda Kenny's handling of the latest in a procession of Garda scandals, involving allegations against whistleblower Maurice McCabe, found him unable to say what he knew and when and this helped speed his departure as Fine Gael leader.

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The process for electing the next Leader of Fine Gael is defined in Rule 49 of the Fine Gael Constitution and Rules.

Mr Varadkar was careful not to sound triumphant, however. "I am not counting my chickens".

"That is just one part of this contest, there are 232 councillors who want to have their say and there are 20,000 members who want to have their say".

When Barack Obama became the U.S. president, such was his devotion to daily workouts that The New York Times called him "the exerciser in chief".

Over the past year, Mr Kenny led a minority government, which was propped up by an alliance of independent TDs and required the support of the opposition party - Fianna Fáil - to pass its budgets.

"We need to talk about what this process is about the conversations that will take place in the hustling's we will have on 4 nights next week when the conversations will take place during the canvassing during the events during the email conversations that I have had with many of you in recent days and I hope I will have in the coming days". "Leo has got off to a good start, but there are two weeks to go so we will see how that plays out", Coveney said.

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