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Harris said he will focus on attempting to shift the party back to its core values. Alamy Stock Photo
Opposite of being asleep

Harris shuts down speculation that he's 'too woke' to shift Fine Gael to core values

“I don’t know what woke means. It’s the opposite of being asleep, isn’t it?”

TAOISEACH-IN-WAITING Simon Harris has said he is capable of shifting Fine Gael to its “core values” and has shut down claims that he’s “too woke” to do so as the new party leader.

Shortly after Leo Varadkar announced he will be stepping down as leader of his party and as Taoiseach, Fine Gael backbenchers Michael Ring and Charlie Flanagan called for the party to go back to basics and claimed it was “too left for too long”.

Speaking to RTÉ’s The Week in Politics today, Harris reiterated that while he respects the position of TDs Ring and Flanagan, he would instead focus on attempting to shift the party back to its core values.

Asked if Harris was “too woke” to do so, the new Fine Gael leader said:

“I don’t know what woke means. It’s the opposite of being asleep, isn’t it?”

“My view on this is we need to reconnect with a number of people in a number of parts of society that perhaps used to vote for Fine Gael, and perhaps are currently not as pleased with us,” Harris said.

irish-general-election Michael Ring (left), pictured with former Taoiseach Enda Kenny, called for the party to go back to basics. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

“I think we need to show form to the farming community. There’s a lot going on. There’s been a brutal year in terms of the weather.

“I think we need to work with the small business community. I think we need to deliver on the Law and Order agenda and we need to make progress,” Harris told the programme.

Harris declined that this shift would require more right-wing-angled policies, saying that he wants the party to focus on “real bread and butter issues” and bring small business back to the centre of debate.

The party leader defended his new position, saying that Fine Gael can work with the rest of the coalition to carry out the rest of the programme for Government, but it would not stop him from resetting the party’s positions on policies in new areas.

Incomes, small businesses and gardaí

On the promises he made to €50,000 income earners yesterday evening, Harris said that the Government is making progress on reducing the income tax – but the change will not be introduced in the next budget.

He added that Fine Gael believes those who are earning the average income should not be paying higher tax rates and that other measures, such as reducing the cost of childcare and education, can be taken to further increase the money in those earner’s pockets.

On his promise to cater to smaller businesses, Harris said that the cohort should expect a quarter-billion euro funding package within the next week and later reductions to PRSI rates for employers.

fine-gael-leader-simon-harris-right-canvasing-in-salthill-in-galway-ahead-of-the-82nd-fine-gael-ard-fheis-picture-date-friday-april-5-2024 Fine Gael leader Simon Harris (right) canvassing with business owners in Salthill in Galway. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

He admitted that not much else can be completed before the end of the current Government’s term but that the work with small business owners will involve briefing and providing clarity to them on future changes.

On garda recruitment, Harris said the 15,000 target is not a cap and that the Government want to increase the number of gardaí needed in Irish towns and cities as soon as they reach its current goal.

He believes the State will “turn a corner” on garda recruitment figures in the next year and claimed that the number of new recruits who have enrolled for the next term at the training college in Templemore support this.

Harris added that growth will be needed across all public services in the coming years, as the population grows with it.

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