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Fine Gael

'Too left for too long': Calls for Fine Gael to move back to the centre as Harris pledges return to 'core values'

McEntee defended her record and highlighted one of her initial pieces of legislation.

FINE GAEL has been “too left for too long” according to Mayo TD Michael Ring, who today called for the late-night licensing laws and the hate speech legislation to be scrapped. 

Speaking ahead of Wicklow TD Simon Harris being announced as the new leader of the party, Ring said it is time the party goes back to its “core values”.

Such a statement has been repeated since Leo Varadkar announced his resignation earlier this week.

“In my opinion, Fine Gael have been too left for too long. 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 told RTÉ’s This Week programme. 

He said there needs to be a focus on law and order, re-focus on supporting small businesses and support farmers more.

These were two items specifically mentioned in Harris’ speech to a packed out room in the Sheraton Hotel in Athlone today.

‘Social issues’

“We need to forget about a lot of the social issues that we have been raising over the last number of years and annoying people and upsetting people,” he added. 

Ring reiterated that he wanted to see the hate speech legislation binned and also the late-night opening hours for pubs to be scrapped. 

“We need to win back the core support that we have lost and the reason we have lost the core support is because we have gotten away from our values,” said the veteran TD. 

During a rousing speech to members this afternoon, Ring told Harris he wants the party to return to “core values”, stating that he would not repeat what he said on RTÉ, but adding that he had laid it all out.

His comments echo what former justice minister Charlie Flanagan tweeted this week, stating that the party’s core values do not include “all-night drinking”, euthanasia, or the hate speech bill. 

The Journal asked Justice Minister Helen McEntee for her reaction to her colleague’s statement today.

McEntee said that her party colleague highlighted just two of bills that are being worked on by her department, stating that over 20 bills have been enacted in the last four years. 

She highlighted ‘Coco’s law’ in particular, which came about after a young girl died by suicide because of bullying she was receiving online. 

The legislation criminalised the sharing of intimate images online without an individual’s consent. As of the end of last year, a total of 349 prosecutions have been filed by gardaí in respect of 254 investigations.

McEntee defended her record, stating that she has introduced legislation around body cameras, facial recognition, and stronger sentences for murder and assaults.

Coveney said: 

I don’t think I’d be describing Fine Gael as a left-wing party, per se.

He said it is a party of the centre, which has “lots of different views”.

Unlike other parties active debate is encouraged within the party, he added on like other parties is actually we encourage active debate within the party.

“And that’s democracy. We’re a big party that attracts people with strong views in different areas and that’s the way it should be,” he added.

Hate speech law

Harris told reporters this evening that the matter of the hate speech laws “is for another day”. 

“I think there is a need for legislation in this space but I do also think significant concerns have been raised and I do also  recognise Minister McEntee is considering amendments to the legislation so let’s see where that process takes us,” he said.

In his speech, Harris also addressed the issue of immigration, stating: 

“And Fine Gael believes we need now to move from an emergency response to the migration crisis to a more planned, sustainable model, to a fair and firm system when it comes to migration.”

When asked to elaborate more on what changes he would like to see in this area, Harris said he thinks people in Ireland are compassionate and understand international obligations in terms of people who are fleeing persecution and fleeing war.

“People also want to know that the systems work, they also want to know that government is competent, they also want to know that there’s a plan and they also want to know that we’re going to move beyond this emergency response,” said Harris.

He said it has been “quite a while now” since the numbers arriving began to rise rapidly, stating, “we need to move beyond the emergency response to telling the Irish people what the plan for migration and accommodation policy around migration is”.

He said people have a right to seek asylum in this country, adding that “people should get a yes or no answer quicker”. 

People who have a right to stay are welcome and should be integrated into Irish society, but the people who don’t have a right to say “should be asked to leave quicker”, he concluded.

 

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