Simon Harris becomes new Fine Gael leader paving way for youngest ever Taoiseach to take office

webnexttech | Simon Harris becomes new Fine Gael leader paving way for youngest ever Taoiseach to take office

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It paves the way for the Wicklow TD (37) to become the youngest ever Taoiseach. He was greeted with hugs and applause from party members as he arrived at a European elections selection convention event in Athlone, Co Westmeath, this afternoon, when he was named the successor to Leo Varadkar, after no other candidates came forward. Key updates Fine Gael meeting opens to select European candidates Minister Simon Coveney has opened the party conference, which will select both its MEP candidate and confirm Simon Harris as new party leader, meaning he will become Taoiseach in two weeks. He thanked sitting MEP Colm Markey, who said he would not be contesting for the European elections for Midlands-North West, for “putting the party first.” “For the decision he made today for what we believe is the strongest ticket, I really want to thank him,” Mr Coveney said. Former jockey Nina Carberry and sitting MEP Maria Walsh, a former Rose of Tralee, are in the race. He also noted that 10 years ago the party lost former Longford-Westmeath TD Nicky McFadden to motor neurone disease, saying to her family: “We’re thinking about you.” Minister Coveney welcomed former minister Regina Doherty, who is contesting the European elections in Dublin, and wished her luck and also welcomed Frances Fitzgerald, who is not running again as an MEP. Simon Harris leadership gives Fine Gael a poll bounce – but public doubts he is right man for the job – Voters would prefer Paschal Donohoe or Simon Coveney – Most underwhelmed by change at the top – Big increase in those wanting election now 45 minutes ago — WATCH: Simon Harris’s speech as he is elected leader of Fine Gael, replacing Leo Varadkar Simon Harris elected leader of Fine Gael Simon Harris elected leader of Fine Gael www.independent.ie Today 16:58 — Simon Harris has officially been named as the new leader of Fine Gael, paving the way for the Wicklow TD to become the youngest ever Taoiseach in two weeks’ time. In his speech marking his election as the leader of Fine Gael, Mr Harris hit out at the use of the Irish flag at the funeral of IRA man Pearse McAuley, who was jailed for the murder of Garda Jerry McCabe. Mr Harris told the room: “I want to promise and placed to you today that I will repay that trust, with hard work, with blood, sweat and tears, day in and day out, with responsibility, with humility and with civility.” He paid tribute to Leo Varadkar and spoke of his brother Adam who had autism, which had led him to campaign as a teenager and to eventually become leader of Fine Gael. “This is an important moment for fine gael to reset… there is a hell of a lot to do in the time to come. Fine Gael stands for supporting businesses the length and breadth of this country,” Mr Harris said. “Fine Gael stands for making work pay. It stands for supporting educational pathways, no matter where you’re from or what your mother and father did, we want you to be able to reach your full potential. “We must work everyday to make sure it’s not a happy slogan trotted out at elations. Fine Gael stands for law and order. “We stand on the side of the gardai, for streets that are safe. In a week I saw a tricolour spread over the coffin of a Garda killer, I say shame.” Mr Harris added: “We need a fair and firm system when it comes to migration in this country. We will work with everyone … to harness the all-island economy. “We condemn the illegal invasion of Ukraine by Putin. We stand by Ukraine, always.” He also hit out at “the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the moral outrage” perpetrated by Hamas. He called for ceasefire in Gaza, the release of hostages and to bring about a two-state solution for the Palestinian people. Mr Harris also said an end needed to be brought to populism. “This is a great country and we should never let people talk it down,” he said. Mr Harris continued: “I want young people to believe in their future in Ireland…. An economy has to work for people, so they feel it on their farm… in the years ahead for their children. “Fine Gael talks about security, as a nation, for individuals, when they buy their first home. For care, for a health service that delivers better and excellence. “To those of you who vote Fine Gael, I sincerely thank you.” In a message to those who no longer voted he said: “I want to win back your trust.” And he added I “respect” those who don’t vote for the party. “I pledge every single day I will work for the common good of this country that we all love,” he said. “I feel the desperate need for hope right across the country…. I’m up for it – are you?” The room ignited and members shouted “yes.” Today 16:35 — WATCH: Simon Harris met with hugs and applause from Fine Gael members as he arrives in Athlone Simon Harris met with hugs and applause by Fine Gael members in Athlone Simon Harris is to become the new leader of Fine Gael today. www.independent.ie Today 16:57 — Maria Walsh and Nina Carberry have also been officially chosen as the party’s MEP candidates Today 16:44 — Party members break into applause and take to their feet as Simon Harris is officially elected leader of Fine Gael this afternoon Today 16:42 — Simon Coveney says: “Simon Harris is ideally placed to take this party forward… to bring people perhaps this party has lost… to make sure they hey have a safe home. To get this party up into the mid 20s which is where we should be. Simon Good luck. You have everybody at your back.” Today 16:33 — Nina Carberry has told Fine Gael members she wanted to be a voice for farmers in Europe. “I’d like to make sure the voice of the farmers are heard in Europe,” she said. Ms Carberry also told how since she was a child conversations at home were often interrupted and “a quiet word from my dad,” ensured she and her family would support Fine Gael. “I began to consider when I was looking at my two young girls, wondering what the future has store for them,” and that decided for her that she would stand. “I’ve always had the mantra: Do you want to make a difference? You need to put your hand up and that’s what I’m doing.” Sitting MEP Maria Walsh praised Ms Carberry and the “future Taoiseach,” Simon Harris. “I thank our current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar… politics requires great courage and commitment. “He has been nothing but gracious with his time…” And she said she was “really excited to work with Simon Harris.” At this time, European politics was more important than ever. She said there was an “unjustified genocide killing thousands in Gaza,” while Russian “aggression” was still impacting Ukraine. Meanwhile she said suicide is the second leading cause of death in Europe and she was confident she would see the first ever EU mandate on mental health to “end this horrific loss of life.” She added that gender equality was vital to ensure men and women are equal in workplace. She said she wants to continue working for gender equality and to ensure an investment fund is set up to help female-led businesses. She also “acknowledged the importance of our farmers,” and said as a young farmer she understands the challenges. “I want to economically support our farm families through the green transition,” she said. And she called for a “100pc redress” for families affected by the mica defective building blocks crisis. “I have a vision for modern Ireland,” and wanted to see all communities “working together.” She thanked Clodagh Higgins and Michael Ring for seconding her candidacy. Today 16:11 — Councillor Sharon Tobin said she stood, like Ms Carberry for “the workers,” and Ms Carberry “gave blood, sweat and tears.” “I’ve told her by the time she finishes with this race Cheltenham will seem like a walk in the park,” she said. Michael Ring praised Simon Coveney and thanked him for his contribution and this was greeted with applause and a standing ovation. He also paid tribute “to our Taoiseach Leo.” And he thanked him for his contribution to Ireland, Europe and Fine Gael and again this was greeted with applause. “Simon Harris I want to wish you well for the next number of years,” Mr Ring said. “I want to see you leading Fine Gael back into Government with the core values of Fine Gael and I won’t go into more of that today.” But today he said he was here to nominate Maria Walsh and “what an MEP you have been.” She said when she stood five years ago she didn’t know a lot about politics but “how well you have done”, Mr Ring said. “We want you to get out there to fight for the heart and soul of Fine Gael,” he added, referring to the two candidates and Simon Harris in his soon-to-be position leading the party. “This party is good in Government and it wants to stay in Government.” Today 16:06 — Simon Harris has just entered the room to huge applause. One Fine Gael member said: “I wish I’d got his photo. I didn’t know he was coming in that quick.” Minister Harris pressed the flesh as he made his way to the front of the room. Maria Walsh and Nina Carberry have just signed a pledge to Fine Gael to stand as MEPs. Laura Lynott Today 16:04 — WATCH: Fine Gael reps at special party conference speak about Simon Harris becoming party leader and Taoiseach Fine Gael representatives speak about Simon Harris as he prepares to become party leader and Taoiseach Minister Simon Coveney with MEP Maria Walsh, European candidate Nina Carberry and Justice Minister Helen McEntee at Fine Gael’s Midlands-North West Selection Convention. www.independent.ie Today 15:57 — Colm Markey, who pulled out of the European race, said: “Our new leader is not with us yet… but members of Fine Gael, I’m delighted to be here today with a crowd this size for the big handover… “ He said Leo Varadkar was akin to a high performing athlete, including speaking up for Gaza in Washington. “The hallmark of Leo Varadkar was his decisive decision making during Covid,” said Mr Markey, who had taken over Mairead McGuinness’s seat when she became an EU commissioner. Mr Varadkar has “handed over to another high performance athlete in Simon Harris,” who Mr Markey said carried the nation through the pandemic. He called Maria Walsh and Nina Carberry “superstars,” for Ms Walsh talking openly about mental health and for Ms Carberry being a pioneer as a jockey in a male dominated field. “I was honoured to be in the (European) Parliament the last few years,” he said. “I’d like to thank my family… my great mentor Fergus O’Dowd… “It was a tough conversation,” he said when he touched on his decision not to stand but “logic and wisdom had to hold across Europe,” because “it’s not happening in America.” He was greeted with applause and Mr Coveney thanked him, saying “you have a big future in the party,” and “we appreciate your contribution.” Today 15:44 — Former MEP Mairead McGuinness told the Fine Gael Midlands-North West selection convention: “We were all sad to say goodbye to John Bruton and I want to thank him for putting his faith in me. “These are extraordinary difficult times… we have a very divided world. There’s fragmentation everywhere,” the European financial stability commissioner said. There is a “value of being at the table” and not “closing your ears.” Those “willing to stay in the room are the ones who prevail,” she added. “Look at the size of this gathering in this room… we want to manage change that may come our way.” She added that it was “important people show up…”Colm Markey has served our party and Ireland really well. He helped Donegal fishers and farmers…” She wishes MEP Maria Walsh the best of luck. Meanwhile, a Fine Gael staff member was ordering people to “sit down” at the back of the room, although it is a case of standing room only at this point. Laura Lynott Today 15:42 — Fine Gael meeting opens to select European candidates Minister Simon Coveney has opened the party conference, which will select both its MEP candidate and confirm Simon Harris as new party leader, meaning he will become Taoiseach in two weeks. He thanked sitting MEP Colm Markey, who said he would not be contesting for the European elections for Midlands-North West, for “putting the party first.” “For the decision he made today for what we believe is the strongest ticket, I really want to thank him,” Mr Coveney said. Former jockey Nina Carberry and sitting MEP Maria Walsh, a former Rose of Tralee, are in the race. He also noted that 10 years ago the party lost former Longford-Westmeath TD Nicky McFadden to motor neurone disease, saying to her family: “We’re thinking about you.” Minister Coveney welcomed former minister Regina Doherty, who is contesting the European elections in Dublin, and wished her luck and also welcomed Frances Fitzgerald, who is not running again as an MEP. Today 15:15 — Minister of State Peter Burke said he believed that the appointment of a new leader was a time for Fine Gael to reflect but also look to the future and described Simon Harris as a a “man of the progressive centre”. “I think its a time for us to reflect but also to really move forward with new energy as well, to see a new leader being elected this afternoon,” Mr Burke told RTÉ This Week programme. Mr Burke, who was one of the first to express his support Simon Harris’ leadership bid, is tipped to be promoted to a cabinet position once Mr Harris takes over as Taoiseach. While Deputy Burke said he would not speculate on whether he is being considered for a ministerial position, he said it is an ambition of anyone who gets into politics. “I don’t think there is anyone who goes forward, who puts himself forward to represent their community, who would not like to serve in cabinet. I think that’s everyone’s aspiration,” Mr Burke said. When asked if he agreed with Deputy Michael Ring’s opinion that the party had gone too far to the left, Mr Burke said it was his view that Fine Gael was a party of the progressive centre. “Fine Gael is a broad church. You’re always going to have a number of opinions but my view very firmly is that we are a party of the progressive centre. “We stand for rewarding enterprise and I am someone who does very busy clinics every single week in my constituency and also I know that when we make assertions that they have to be evidence based as well,” Mr Burke said. Today 15:10 — Fine Gael TD Michael Ring said he believes Fine Gael has been “too left for too long” and that Simon Harris needed to bring the party back to its core values. Mr Ring, who is a senior member of the party, said Fine Gael wasn’t a left-wing party and its position needed to change. “Fine Gael has to go back to it’s core values. Fine Gael in my opinion have been too left for too long,” Mr Ring told RTÉ’s This Week programme. “We’re not a left party. We’re a centre party and I think that Fine Gael have to move back into the centre again and more to the right,” he added. Some of those core values including law and order, were something Mr Ring believed needed to be focused on, as well as providing support for small businesses and farmers. “We need to forget about a lot of these social issues that we have been raising over the last number of years, annoying people and upsetting people. “People want law and order, they want small businesses to be looked after, they want their sons and daughters to have jobs,” he added. In particular, Mr Ring said he wanted to see the hate speech legislation abandoned as well as the extended opening hours for pubs. “I want the hate bill gone, I also want this daft idea of opening pubs all night. “There’s other social issues that they’re talking about and I will be stronger this time and I won’t be allowing Fine Gael to go into the left, going into these kinds of social issues that people don’t want,” Mr Ring said. Mr Ring said while the role of Taoiseach and party leader won’t be easy, he believes Simon Harris can lift the party. “He has a very difficult job ahead, there’s no doubt about it. Fine Gael have been in government now almost 13 years and I have to say that this job isn’t going to be easy particularly with all the people who are retiring,” Mr Ring told RTÉ’s This Week programme. “But I think that Simon Harris has the energy and he has the ability to try and lift the party,” he added. In the latest Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll, Fine Gael saw a small increase support ahead of the election of Simon Harris as leader. Mr Ring said he was glad to see the party get a small lift in the opinion polls. “Now he has to continue and he has to do what Enda Kenny did, what John Bruton did in the past. He has to go around the country now, revitalise the organisation, talk to the organisation, listen to the organisation,” Mr Ring said. “He has to make sure that he is ready to give this 24 hours a day because we have only a I suppose a year left before the general election, we are into local elections and European elections in the next few week,” he added. Today 14:15 — He came into politics full of fire and he leaves bereft of energy. The leader who promised change ran out of ideas. It is as if the job had finally got the better of him, writes Eoin O’Malley. Eoin O’Malley: Time will tell the truth of Leo Varadkar’s legacy. But here’s a first draft to get us started He came into politics full of fire and he leaves bereft of energy. The leader who promised change ran out of ideas. It is as if the job had finally got the better of him. www.independent.ie Today 14:13 — Simon Harris leadership gives Fine Gael a poll bounce – but public doubts he is right man for the job – Voters would prefer Paschal Donohoe or Simon Coveney – Most underwhelmed by change at the top – Big increase in those wanting election now Simon Harris leadership gives Fine Gael a poll bounce – but public doubts he is right man for the job Fine Gael has received a marginal uplift in support ahead of the election of Simon Harris as leader, but the wider public would have preferred Simon Coveney or Paschal Donohoe as Taoiseach, a Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll shows. www.independent.ie Today 14:07 — Simon Harris speaks to media in Athlone as European elections hopeful, former jockey Nina Carberry, looks on. Photo: PA Today 13:05 — Frances Fitzgerald on Harris’s early political career Mr Harris began his political career as an assistant to the then Fine Gael senator Frances Fitzgerald. “He applied for a job when I got the new position as leader of the opposition in the Senate,” Ms Fitzgerald told the Anton Savage Show on Newstalk on Sunday. “I got an email in, or a note from Simon saying he would like to work in politics. I met him in Buswells [hotel] informally. “I have known him for 17 years, seen him go from working with me as PA, then while he was working with me, he went for councillor in Wicklow and was successful. I think one of the highest votes ever. “And then went from that to eventually going in as a minister of state in the OPW and then joined cabinet eventually,” she added. “So I ended up in cabinet with him. I saw his trajectory over the 17 years and he never lost his absolute fascination with politics. When asked if she would have tipped him for taoiseach when she worked with him in the early years, Ms Fitzgerald said she did spot his ambition. “I would have tipped him as somebody who was very bright, very interested and very ambitious in the best sense of that word. “So, would I have thought of taoiseach? Maybe not initially but certainly fairly quickly you could see it. “I always knew he would go very far in politics.” Tabitha Monahan Today 13:03 — Taoiseach-elect Simon Harris will today tell Fine Gael members in Athlone, where he will be confirmed as party leader, that the party must refocus on Enterprise, Equality of Opportunity, Integrity and Security. “An economy has to work for people so that they feel it in their own household economies, on their farms and in their businesses, around the kitchen table, and in the lives they can see ahead for their children,” he will tell members. Harris will tell members he intends to prioritise supporting families, small businesses, law and order, making work pay, and education. “There is a helluva lot to get done in the time ahead to support businesses, to make work pay, to support education and educational pathways for all, to ensure equality of opportunity is not a slogan but is something that is woven through everything, and to ensure law and order prevails crime is never allowed go unchecked and our streets are safe,” he will say. He will commit to bringing a new energy to the party and listening to the grassroot membership across the country. It is understood Mr Harris will commit to resolving the Coalition impasse over the future funding of RTÉ in the coming weeks. He will likely commit to retaining a levy on the public , in the form of an overhauled licence fee, rather than exchequer funding. This model is favoured by Fianna Fáil. “There are two options. It’s not going to be the hardest decision, Micheál Martin has a clear view which really rules out one of the options,” a source said. Hugh O’Connell TickarooLive Blog Software Mr Harris announced his candidature on Thursday night following a series of endorsements from within the Fine Gael parliamentary party and after a number of senior colleagues said they did not intend to stand for the leadership. A shortened leadership contest saw him announced as leader in Athlone, Co Westmeath on Sunday afternoon after nominations closed at 1pm. It took place during a party selection convention for European Parliament candidates. Mr Harris will then be expected to be formally elected as taoiseach in the Dáil in two weeks following the Easter recess. Mr Harris said that if elected the next leader, he would remain fully committed to the programme for government agreed with coalition partners Fianna Fail and the Green Party. He has stopped short of ruling out a general election this year but insisted such a poll was not his priority. Aside from Mr Harris, all other senior Fine Gael cabinet ministers have ruled themselves out of contention. Mr Harris has said he is “overwhelmed and honoured” by the level of support he has secured for his Fine Gael leadership bid. 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