UK News

“I’m up for it, aren’t I?” – Simon Harris criticizes Sinn Féin and populism and tries to fire up the crowd in his first speech as Fine Gael leader

The elected Taoiseach promises to sacrifice “blood, sweat and tears” for his roleMr Harris says he wants to win back voters who have left the partyHe also paid tribute to Leo Varadkar, saying his impact on Ireland was “truly significant”.

The elected Taoiseach narrowly managed to punch the air in his first speech.

Mr Harris was particularly vocal about Sinn Féin and rising populism as he vowed to help win back voters who had abandoned Fine Gael.

Now is a time when the Irish people need “hope,” he said.

He vowed to bring “blood, sweat and tears” to his role.

He said it was time for Fine Gael to “reboot” and reconnect with its grassroots members to “listen to where this party should go in the future”.

In a moment usually reserved for the pantomime of American politics, Mr Harris shouted to the Fine Gael faithful: “I feel the desperate need for hope across the country… I’m ready for this, aren’t I?”

The room responded “yes” when Mr Harris tried to adopt Barack Obama’s “Yes We Can” slogan from the 2008 US election.

He brought fire to his speech when he said: “Fine Gael stands for law and order. We stand with the Gardaí for safe streets.

“One week I saw a tricolor spread over the coffin of a Garda murderer, I say ‘shame’.”

Elected Taoiseach Simon Harris hugs his mother Mary alongside his father Bart after he was announced as the new leader of Fine Gael in Athlone yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

Mr Harris was referring to former IRA member Pearse McCauley, whose coffin was decorated with the tricolor at his funeral in Strabane last week. McCauley was jailed for the murder of Detective Garda Jerry McCabe in Adare, Limerick in 1996.

He also paid tribute to outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who “delivered when hope and guidance was needed in dark days”. He said Mr Varadkar’s impact on Ireland was “really significant”.

Mr also thanked his family, including his brother Adam, and said how his autism diagnosis led him to campaign as a teenager and eventually become leader of Fine Gael. He said it’s that experience that keeps him grounded.

“This is an important moment for Fine Gael to restart… there is a hell of a lot of work to do in the period ahead. “Fine Gael stands for supporting businesses across the country,” Mr Harris said.

“Fine Gael stands for work paying off. It stands for supporting educational pathways, no matter where you come from or what your mother and father did, we want you to be able to develop your full potential.

“We have to work every day to ensure that this is not a happy slogan that is thrown around at elections.”

“Fine Gael stands for law and order.” We stand with the Gardaí, for safe streets.

And to counter the growing anti-immigration movement across Ireland, he made it clear he would also address the issue.

“We need a fair and robust system when it comes to migration in this country,” Mr Harris said, although he gave no further indication of what that plan would look like.

It was obvious that he had already won over many in the audience, and one middle-aged woman explained that she had to sit next to the press to ensure she could see the new party leader in his full glory.

“I need to see Simon up close,” she said. “Do you think he’ll pull through again?”

Looking beyond Ireland, Mr Harris condemned Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, adding: “We always stand with Ukraine.”

And he vowed to “speak truth to power” to demand an end to the catastrophic conflict and famine in Gaza.

He said there was “moral outrage” over the “humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza” and called for a ceasefire, the release of hostages and the need to bring about a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Mr Harris also called for an end to populism.

“This is a great country and we should never let people belittle it,” he said.

Simon Harris is welcomed by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Paschal Donohoe and Justice Minister Helen McEntee at the Fine Gael Congress in Athlone. Photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

“I want young people to believe in their future in Ireland. An economy has to work for people so that they feel it on their farm and in the years to come for their children.

“Fine Gael is talking about security as a nation, for individuals when they buy their first home… for care, for a health service that delivers results.

“To those of you who vote Fine Gael, I sincerely thank you.”

In a message to those who stopped voting for the party, he said: “I want to regain your trust.”

While using the speech to address the disillusioned, Mr Harris said he “respects” those who would never vote for the party, saying: “I promise to work every day for the common good of this country, that we all love.” .”

Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney, who confirmed he will stand for Fine Gael at the next general election, said: “Simon Harris is ideally placed to take this party forward, to bring back people that this party may have lost… to make sure they have a safe home.

“To get this party into the mid-20s [percentage in polling figures] That’s where we should be. Simon, good luck. You have everyone’s back.”

Outside, the anti-immigration activists stood in the drizzle. They had missed a dose of Hollywood inside, where it was standing room only for the party faithful.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button