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Harris: ‘Intention’ around timing of election not changed

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The Taoiseach has said his “intention” around the general election has not changed and he is very pleased with the results of the local and European elections so far.

Simon Harris said his party has received more first preference votes in both and he believes Fine Gael is in a very good chance for MEP seats.

Mr Harris also responded to comments made by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan about personal attacks for electoral gain during RTÉ’s Prime Time last night.

Speaking on the programme, Mr Ryan said that was not acceptable that when parties in a coalition government “look for their electoral advantage [by] tackling colleagues with accusations that are not true.

“We are not autocratic we are democratic,” Mr Ryan said, “we work well in Coalition, we are not out there lambasting our colleagues or doing personal attacks on Government colleagues – I think that is totally inappropriate and wrong.

“People in our own party have said things but not that systemic attack for electoral gain.

“When you depict it as the last thing that Ireland wants – I don’t agree with that – but it did impact on us and we have to reflect on that.”

This morning, Mr Harris said it is entirely appropriate for people to express views during an election but that should happen in a civil and respectful way.

He said the coalition is working well together.

No interest in ‘bragging rights’

Tánaiste Micheál Martin expressed his delight that his party remains the largest in local government, adding that he expects Fianna Fáil will take 248 seats in total.

“It’s seats that matter,” he said, while acknowledging that it has been a “very tight race”.

Noting that opinion polls had put his party in a distant third, and yet it is now the largest party, the Fianna Fáil leader insisted that he is not interested in bragging rights.

But he urged commentators and pundits to reflect on the discrepancy when discussing politics over the next ten months.

Speaking on his way into Cabinet, Mr Martin said that his party will evaluate where it did well and where it could do better, and added that local elections are not comparable to general elections.

“It is a blank sheet from now in terms of the next period,” he said.

Ireland ‘not immune’ from far right

Both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste expressed concerns around the rise of the far right in Europe.

“We have seen it significantly grow in some European countries and we are not immune from that here,” Mr Harris said.

He urged centrist politicians to show “courage and guts” on big issues that are on people’s minds, and warned that otherwise a vacuum could allow the extremes to grow.

Micheál Martin also said that the rise of the far right across parts of Europe is significant, but professed his belief that “centre can hold”.

The Taoiseach welcomed the fact that the EPP – with which Fine Gael MEPs vote – has grown in strength.

Separately, he would like to see a ban on the XL bully dog and that there is a “clear need” for Government action on this.

He said the issues around this breed of dog will be discussed at Cabinet today as he expressed his sympathies to the family of Nicole Morey, who died after being attacked by an XL Bully dog in Co Limerick last week.

Mr Harris also said he would like to see the work carried out by the task force that was established to examine the issues.

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