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Fine Gael

Simon Harris rules out early general election, says coalition will run its full term

Speculation has been rife about what the new leadership means for an election date.

FINE GAEL LEADER Simon Harris has said he intends this government to go the full-term.

The soon-to-be Taoiseach said there doesn’t need to be a “mystique” around when the next general election will be called, telling reporters in Athlone today that he plans for it to go all the way out to March next year.

Harris said he wants this government to “get back to work, to deliver for people” and for the programme for government to be implemented.

While he said each government takes on a “rhythm” of its own and things can happen, he wants to government to work together.

He added that he was “very conscious” that this will mean everyone will need “to act in good faith”.

Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan both said this week that they foresee the government going the full-term.

Harris was announced as the new leader of Fine Gael today, paving his way to become Taoiseach next month.

He was the only person to put his name forward for job, which means there was no race. He was formally announced as leader when the nominations closed today.

“It is the honour of my life to be here in Athlone to accept the leadership of this great party, the Fine Gael party,” he told delegates.

The new Fine Gael leader dampened down any suggestions of the Dáil being recalled early, stating that he has two weeks to get a lot of work done.

Meeting Varadkar tomorrow

He told reporters this evening that he spoke to Martin and Ryan this evening, and he plans to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tomorrow.

Harris spoke about setting out a priority list with Fine Gael ministers about what can be achieved in the government’s last year.

The Wicklow TD said people want to see politics working for them and want to see delivery before adding that there is a “relatively short window of time” for things to get done.

“I think that’s important to do, to set the tone… but I do think it’s really important when you get to this stage of the political cycle, you’re honing in on what can we get done between now and the election,” he said.

He added there is a real need for hope across the country.

“I want to talk to ministers individually about their priorities, what they think they can get done. They’ve heard my speech today. My speech is now an outline about the policy priority areas that the Fine Gael party will pursue. I want to build on that with colleagues in the weeks and days ahead,” he added.

Harris said that for the government to start off on a good footing and to continue, the relationship must be built on trust and mutual respect.

“Trust and mutual respect is key to this government, as we go into the last chapter of it,” he said.

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