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'This government's race is firmly ran': Independent TDs plan no-confidence motion in Simon Harris

The Minister for Health responded to the no-confidence threat with: “I don’t have any confidence in Michael Collins, we don’t agree on much.”

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

INDEPENDENT TDS HAVE said that they are planning a motion of no confidence against Health Minister Simon Harris over his record on health.

Michael Collins, Mattie McGrath and Michael Healy Rae have suggested that they would put forward the motion of no confidence, as talks between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil continue over their Confidence and Supply arrangement, and a possible date for a long-awaited general election.

The Fine Gael minority government was being propped up by Fianna Fáil since 2016, under the Confidence and Supply arrangement that was meant to run for three years. But due to political uncertainty over Brexit, the agreement was extended; now that Brexit is due to happen by the end of January, an election is looming large.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had said he would prefer an election in May, while Fianna Fáil leader Mícheal Martin said after Easter would be his preference, meaning a date in April.

Based on political posturing and statements this week, a date in February seems more likely – more clarity, though perhaps no specific dates, on when an election might be held, is expected by the end of today.

Speaking to reporters this morning, Harris said that “the timing of the next general election, I think, will become clear in the coming days. It’s certainly not going to be very far away.”

He also said that the election could be as soon as “three, four or five weeks’ time”.

Cabinet is meeting this afternoon in Marino, with press conferences expected afterwards. 

“We’ve a major crisis in almost every area of Irish healthcare service,” Collins told Morning Ireland today.

“This week we had the highest number of people on trolleys, 760.”

He said believed that the motion would be carried “at this stage”. 

“It’s unhealthy for this country” to be left in limbo on when a general election would be, he added.

Mattie McGrath criticised Harris on Sean O’Rourke’s programme later in the morning over his suggestion to roll out free GP care to under 13s, when GP clinics cannot cope as it is.

He said that “people are furious out there”, over the housing crisis, the mental health crisis and “the burden of debt we’re under”.

“They’re going to get a rude awakening at the doors,” he said.

Michael Healy Rae said that “with absolute certainty, this government’s race is firmly ran”.

He said that Varadkar and Martin should “give the people a date in early February” today, but he didn’t expect them to do it.

He added: “This government is like a car going down hill with four bald tyres, they’re nearly out of petrol, and they’ve no brakes.”

McGrath added “… and with no NCT.”

Responding to the threat of a motion of no confidence, Harris told reporters: “I don’t have any confidence in Michael Collins, we don’t agree on much.”

In fact, since, since I’ve been in the health ministry he’s pretty much opposed everything I’ve tried to do, particularly in the space of women’s reproductive rights, and it doesn’t surprise me that the opposition intend to oppose, and it doesn’t surprise me at this stage of an electoral cycle.

“What is what is now clear is there is going to be a general election in the next couple of months in Ireland and the timing of that general election will be decided by the Taoiseach after discussions with leader of Fianna Fáil.

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“One way or the other we are going to have an election in Ireland in the not so distant future,” he said.

Also speaking on the way into this morning’s Cabinet meeting, Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said he is satisfied that there is going to be an election in the next few months, but he has a lot of legislation that he wants to get through beforehand.

“But, it’s going to happen,” he said, adding that he heard that Sports Minister Shane Ross is looking to step into his job in the future. Jokingly, he said, “that isn’t going to happen, and I’ll be telling him that inside”.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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