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Taoiseach contender Coveney urges anti-corruption body with High Court powers

An energetic new anti-corruption watchdog with the powers of a High Court judge should be established, Simon Coveney said.

He championed "major change" in how Ireland organises its national security services as part of reform of the Garda and Defence Forces.

The Housing Minister stepped up his bid to become the next Taoiseach as rival Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar joined the Streets of Dublin 5km run on Sunday morning.

Mr Coveney said: "Much more needs to be done to rebuild trust between the state and the citizen."

He proposed the creation of a new Anti-Corruption and Transparency ("ACT") Commission with the powers of a High Court judge which will respond to whistle blowers and possible corruption much more "energetically" than is currently the case.

"I am also proposing that we consider a major change in how Ireland organises its national security services, as part of major reform of the gardai and the defence forces."

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.

Mr Varadkar, who is in pole position to become the next party chief and Taoiseach, has said he wants to reward work.

He told the Irish Times: "I want Ireland to be a country that rewards work and that rewards people who work hard, essentially, who want better lives for themselves, for their families, for their communities.

"And that of course includes many forms of work, it's not just paid employment. There are a lot of people, for example, who get up very early in the morning because they're carers, or because they're parents."

Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald has given her backing to Mr Varadkar to become Fine Gael leader.

He has the support of 45 Fine Gael parliamentary members.

Almost 21,000 party members will vote at 26 polling stations from May 29 to June 1, and the parliamentary party, which includes 73 TDs, senators and MEPs, will vote in Dublin on June 2.

The contest is decided by an electoral college, with the parliamentary party worth 65% of the total vote, rank-and-file members accounting for 25% and 235 local representatives making up the remaining 10% of the vote.

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