Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Sinn Fein says Simon Harris ‘failed his way to very top’

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said a change of government is needed (Niall Carson/PA)
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said a change of government is needed (Niall Carson/PA)

New Irish premier Simon Harris “failed” his way to the top of Government, according to Ireland’s main opposition party.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald repeated her party’s call for a general election as she launched a broadside against Mr Harris on his appointment as Taoiseach.

The Irish Labour Party urged the new Fine Gael leader to “face down” the “yesterday men” in his party on hate speech legislation, while two TDs called on him to support an Irish bid for the World Rally Championship.

Upon Mr Harris’s appointment as Taoiseach, Ms McDonald said: “Another Fine Gael Taoiseach is the last thing the people need. We need a change of leadership, we need a change of government.”

Despite Sinn Fein, the Irish Labour Party, the Social Democrats, People Before Profit and several independents refusing to back his appointment, Mr Harris was voted in by 88 votes to 69.

Discussing Mr Harris’s record in office, Ms McDonald said: “Not so long ago, Simon Harris was the minister for health, and on his watch hospital overcrowding spun out of control, the trolley crisis escalated and the treatment waiting list hit one million patients for the very first time.”

She said that the “scandalous cost” of the National Children’s Hospital also grew, and that a promise Mr Harris made on child scoliosis waiting lists had been “disgracefully broken again and again”.

Ms McDonald said Mr Harris’s appointment was part of the Irish Government’s narrative that “dresses up failure as progress”.

The Sinn Fein leader said the Government was now presenting its third Taoiseach in four years.

“For the third time, you rearrange the Cabinet deck chairs. For the third time in four years, you pat each other on the back and tell the people what a great job you’re doing,” she said.

“The narrative we hear today from Government is a fairy tale so egregious that Hans Christian Andersen himself would be proud of it.”

Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Fine Gael leader Simon Harris and former taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Brian Lawless/PA)

She added: “It’s your century-old cosy club, circling the wagons once again to cling to power at all costs.”

Insisting on a general election, she said: “I believe that the people of Ireland deserve so much better.

“If you really believe that your Government has the support of the people, then you should go before the people and get that mandate.”

Speaking in the Dail on Tuesday, she also criticised Fine Gael’s current coalition partners.

“Fianna Fail refused to vote confidence in Simon Harris as minister for health in 2020 – it caused an election, if you all recall. Today, they dutifully line up to vote him in as Taoiseach, joined at the hip by a group of independent TDs,” she said.

“Now out there in the real world, the experience is that if you fail and fail again, you get your P45. However, in the world of this Government – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Greens – it seems you can fail your way right to the very, very top.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said her party could not support a “cosmetic” change-over at the head of the Government and criticised the lack of women appointed to Cabinet in the reshuffle.

Irish constitution referenda
Irish Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik (Damien Storan/PA)

Joking that Mr Harris’s “new energy” slogan sounded like a “Star Wars tagline”, she said that Ireland was a country of “profound inequalities” and she doubted Mr Harris could deliver any change.

“Unfortunately from what we have heard so far, his elevation today will not deliver the change that we need,” she told the Dail.

She said there were five areas which he should focus on in the coming months: policy changes on housing, which she called the “civil rights issue of this generation”; disability rights, particularly on assessments; child poverty, a commitment that had been made by Leo Varadkar; tackling the cost of living and passing a Bill that “properly” funds the health service.

Labour TD Aodhan O’Riordain also advised the new leader: “On hate crime, face down the yesterday men on your backbenches. This is not a culture war on gender identity as some would distort this debate to be.

“Stand by your convictions Taoiseach, even if others in the opposition cower away.”

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said that, on a personal note, she wished Mr Harris well, but added that the difference offered by the reshuffle is “barely discernible” and said there were “new faces but no new plans”.

Social Democrats leadership
Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns (Brian Lawless/PA)

“We are facing serious challenges as a country, and in order to address them we need new ideas – for that, we need a new government,” she said.

Ms Cairns said “radical change” is needed to tackle crises in housing, healthcare, disability services, childcare and climate action.

“The change that we need cannot be delivered by a Taoiseach from the same party, with the same programme for government and the same policies,” she added.

“The issues we face and will continue to face will worsen until we elect a government with a fundamentally new approach.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said it was not acceptable that scheduled Dail business was being replaced with a “jamboree” to appoint Mr Harris.

He also highlighted the number of sitting Fine Gael TDs who have ruled out running for re-election, adding: “The reason they are abandoning the Fine Gael ship and don’t want to face the electorate is because they know they have failed hundreds of thousands of people in this country on the most basic things: of providing secure and affordable housing; on providing a decent health service that works; on protecting our children with special needs and those with disabilities; on providing the public services that make life bearable for people; and protect people from the crippling cost-of-living crisis that has been inflicted on them over the last number of years.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government had delivered the “worst housing and homelessness crisis” that Ireland had ever seen, and claimed the country was experiencing a mass emigration of young people who were leaving Irish shores because they saw no future for themselves at home.

Independent TD Carol Nolan said that while she and Mr Harris may disagree on many aspects, the focus he put on apprenticeships was welcome.

New Taoiseach appointed
Newly elected Taoiseach Simon Harris leaves the Dail (Niall Carson/PA)

In an unexpected but inconsequential twist during the debates, independent politician Michael Healy-Rae was suggested as an alternative nominee for taoiseach.

Danny Healy-Rae, also an independent TD for Kerry, told the Dail that he was nominating his brother, while Mattie McGrath, another TD in the rural independent group, said he was seconding the proposal after describing Mr Harris’s appointment as a “charade”.

Later on in the parliament, Michael Healy-Rae said he wanted to be the “first person to invite you to Co Kerry”, and then called for the Government to provide funding for the World Rally Championship to be hosted in counties Kerry, Limerick and Waterford.

People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Mick Barry referenced the theme music chosen by Mr Harris for his leader’s speech at the Fine Gael ard fheis conference at the weekend – Bachman–Turner Overdrive’s 1974 song You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.

“It’s a great song, but I can think of one or two other tunes from that decade that might be more appropriate,” Mr Barry said.

“For example, I can think of The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again from 1971 – it might sum up the mood of the electorate a little better.

“And it does have the closing lyric: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”