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Taoiseach says local elections an 'unmitigated disaster' for Sinn Féin and rules out early election

Taoiseach Simon Harris says the Irish people understood what Sinn Féin was selling and they didn’t buy it.

TAOISEACH SIMON HARRIS has said the local elections for Sinn Féin have been an “unmitigated disaster”. 

Speaking to reporters as he arrived into the RDS this afternoon, Harris said the story today is about the “absolute collapse of support for Sinn Féin”. 

“What Sinn Féin need to realise here is that the Irish people see through the noise,” he told the media. 

“The Irish people don’t believe they live in a failed state. The Irish people don’t believe in all of the negativity,” he added, stating that the public what ”pragmatic delivery”.

“The Irish people do want change. They want credible change. That’s the sort of change I’m offering with Fine Gael and with our coalition colleagues,” he said.

Earlier today, the Sinn Féin party leader conceded that it had not been a good day for her party, and while they did make gains, it is not to the extent as was expected. 

Early indications from the ongoing counts of European and local elections suggest that Government parties do not appear to have suffered a major electoral blow, which had been predicted.

‘Public didn’t buy what SF were selling’

“This is is the second local elections that Mary Lou McDonald has had the honor of leading her party into. It’s the second local elections that have been an unmitigated disaster for them,” he said. 

“I think the people knew exactly what Sinn Fein were selling, and they just didn’t want to buy it,” said Harris. 

When asked about comments made by Sinn Féin’s Daithi Doolin yesterday, where he said Fine Gael was “obsessed” with Sinn Féin, Harris denied it was the case and hit back. 

“We are not,” he said, adding Sinn Féin should have been “more obsessed” with outlining detailed policies of their own. 

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He highlighted the controversy that ensued after McDonald told The Irish Times late last year that she wanted the average house price in Dublin to be €300,000.

Harris said she failed to explain how she would deliver that. McDonald said last week that the €300k reference was to an affordable housing plan that her party had come up with. 

“If they became more obsessed with policy detail and playing a constructive role with solutions maybe they would be in a different place,” the Taoiseach told reporters. 

Harris also hit out at McDonald’s campaign strategy, pointing out that her party’s posters spoke about beginning the process of changing the government, with slogans like “change starts here”. 

He added: 

That was her idea, not mine. She got her verdict.

It was pointed out to the Taoiseach that local election results don’t necessarily extrapolate into the same results in a general election. In 2019, Sinn Féin had a bad day in the local elections, but when it came to the general election, they had huge success. 

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The local, European and general elections are indeed “distinct elections”, he said, stating that that, for him, it is now about getting down to delivery for the people in housing, health and in particular, children with disabilities.

General election

With the Fine Gael not appearing to get a wallop by the electorate in this election, the talk has naturally turned to whether Harris might be tempted to cut and run and hold a general election sooner rather than later. 

Fine Gael Mayo TD Michael Ring said today that time for a general election is now.

Outgoing MEP France Fitzgerald also said on Newstalk today that in her view, an election at the end of the year would be best. 

However, when asked about this, Harris said he hasn’t changed his mind, and still intends this government to go full term. Regarding Fitzgerald’s comments, Harris said he welcomes her advice and counsel, but he still intends the general election to be held in March 2025. 

When asked about whether Fine Gael might enter into a voting pact with Fianna Fáil in the general election campaign, Harris said there is no plans to formalise transfer pacts. 

Parties shouldn’t get obsessed with polls or timings of elections, he said, stating that people just want to see the government turning up to work every day and working hard to make progress. 

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