Fine Gael leadership contender Simon Coveney has declared he will fight on, despite his rival, Leo Varadkar adding further high profile pledges of support today.

Mr Coveney rejected the idea of cutting short the Fine Gael leadership contest. Speaking in Ennis, he said such talk would not distract him and he was the kind of person who always finished what he started.

So far, a majority of TDs, Senators and MEPs who have declared their preference, have opted for Mr Varadkar.

Mr Coveney added that it was only the second day of a two-week contest and he was experienced enough to know a lot can change over the course of a fortnight.

He said it was important that the party's councillors and membership get to test both candidates.

While admitting that Leo Varadkar had momentum today within the parliamentary party, he expressed confidence that more TDs, Senators and MEPs will back him in the weeks ahead.

However his two Dáil Clare colleagues standing at his side, Joe Carey and Minister of State Pat Breen, refused to say who they would support.

Earlier, Mr Varadkar said that the contest for the party leadership is "not over" and he is "not counting his chickens".

If elected party leader, Mr Varadkar said he wants to reach out to those who are not supporting the party and he also wants to make it a campaigning party.

The Minister for Social Protection was speaking at a press event in Dublin alongside Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe, who publicly endorsed him today.

Mr Varadkar said the country was at an important crossroads and it was important not to make the mistakes of the past and he wanted a new social contract and everyone should have equal opportunity.

When asked about comments he had made in 2015 that he would stay in politics for another 15 years, he said he was not sticking to that timeline.

He said he was staying for as long as the people wanted him.

When asked if he would merge the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure, he said he would be publishing a paper on his policies later in the campaign.

Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty has said that she is supporting Mr Varadkar in the leadership contest. 

She said: "For me he simply has all the qualities I want in a leader of Fine Gael and a Taoiseach of our country." 

Earlier, Ministers Donohoe and Charlie Flanagan declared their backing for Mr Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race.

Mr Donohoe stated his intention to vote for Mr Varadkar in an interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

He described Mr Varadkar as "the most capable politician of my generation", adding he "has all the qualities needed to lead Ireland as we face into a future of great opportunities and new risks".

He said Mr Coveney is "a very fine politician" but said he believes Mr Varadkar has the "rare combination of intellect and judgement needed for leadership".

Mr Donohoe said it is a matter for the next taoiseach whether he would have a Cabinet role, refusing to say whether he would seek the role of Minister for Finance. 

Meanwhile, Minister Flanagan declared his intention to support Mr Varadkar saying he was the "change candidate".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today's with Seán O'Rourke programme he said a leadership election is time for renewal and Mr Varadkar reflects a changing Ireland, a diverse Ireland and will broaden Fine Gael's support base.

He said that after ten years of crisis management, it's time for a new direction for Fine Gael and the country and Mr Varadkar is the person to set a new ambitious course for Ireland.

Former Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett today said he is supporting Mr Coveney while Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan declared his support for Mr Varadkar.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Barrett said he is basing his decision on who he thinks would make the best taoiseach, not just leader of the party. 

He said Mr Coveney's experience in Europe leaves him best placed to steer Ireland through Brexit negotiations. He added that heading up a minority government is a "very big challenge" and the person chosen as leader will have to deliver the programme for government. 

Mr O'Donovan said he believed the Minister for Social Protection had the best attributes for the job.

Speaking in Limerick, Minister O'Donovan said Mr Varadkar had the experience and determination to lead Fine Gael and Ireland into the future.

Minister of State Paul Kehoe, Louth TD Fergus O'Dowd and Sligo TD Tony McLoughlin have also confirmed their support for Mr Varadkar.

In a statement, Mr Kehoe said Mr Varadkar's "capacity to build a strong support base is testament to his willingness to work with party colleagues."

As the leadership contest enters its second day more members of the parliamentary party, including a number of other senior ministers, are due to indicate who they are supporting in the contest. 

Based on yesterday's and today's declarations, Mr Varadkar has established a lead within the parliamentary party but those campaigning for Minister for Housing Mr Coveney say a significant number remain undecided.

Mr Varadkar has already secured the public endorsements of around 35 members of the parliamentary party.

This is important as the 73 TDs, senators and MEPs who are members of the parliamentary party have a 65% share of the overall vote with party members having 25% and councillors 10%.

Those working on Mr Varadkar's campaign say they expect at least five ministers to come out in support of him today.

However, those campaigning for Mr Coveney, who has around 20 supporters so far in the parliamentary party, believe another 20 are undecided.

Separately, the Fine Gael National Executive met last night to finalise the details of the contest with four regional debates now confirmed in Dublin, Carlow, Ballinasloe, and Cork from the end of next week.

The debates will be followed by four days of polling in 26 locations nationwide with the new leader confirmed on 2 June.

However, the next few days will be very telling in terms of the outcome.

Mr Coveney set out his stall for the leadership during his first interview of the campaign on RTÉ's Prime Time last night.

He said one of the jobs that the new taoiseach and the new leader of Fine Gael is going to have to do is keep the Government together and he said he is well placed to do that, having been involved in putting the 'confidence and supply' agreement in place.