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Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Simon Harris Alamy Stock Photo

Gardaí investigating protests that targeted Simon Harris while canvassing in Co Mayo

A small number of protesters targeted the Taioseach while he was canvassing in both Castlebar and Westport yesterday.


GARDAÍ HAVE CONFIRMED they have launched an investigation after Taoiseach Simon Harris was reportedly pushed and jostled while on the campaign trail in Co Mayo.

Harris faced disruption while canvassing in Westport and barracking from protesters in Castlebar about state provision of asylum seeker accommodation in the county.

Among those who challenged Harris yesterday was the family of Enoch Burke, the secondary school teacher currently in prison for contempt of court for refusing to stay away from the school where he worked.

Harris dismissed the incidents when asked by reporters yesterday afternoon but a spokesperson for the Taoiseach later said that the behaviour he witnessed “cannot be accepted”.

“What happened in Mayo today was not protest. It was thuggery. The Taoiseach would like to thank An Garda Siochana for their professionalism,” the spokesperson said.

A member of An Garda Siochana was hit during the scenes and the Taoiseach was pushed and jostled by a small number of people. It is not representative of what has been a really healthy canvass for the majority of politicians across the country as people in Ireland are decent and law abiding.

He added: “Although it was a very small number of people, today’s behaviour cannot be accepted and should never be normalised and a full Garda investigation should be carried out. The people of Mayo were warm and welcoming today and the Taoiseach really enjoyed meeting so many people across much of the county and thanks them for their time.”

A Garda spokesperson said today: “Gardai in Mayo are investigating all the circumstances of events which occurred in Westport, Co Mayo, yesterday, 2nd June 2024.

“An Garda Siochana has no further comment at this time.”

Election time

Speaking earlier yesterday, Harris said that “protest has an important role to play in any democracy” but that “there’s a difference between protest and an attempt to, I suppose, significantly disrupt.”

“But I think as people know about me, it takes an awful lot to disrupt my energy, and I certainly enjoyed continuing to talk to people in Castlebar, calling into cafes, calling into shops, getting out the message,” he said. 

Harris added that Friday’s local and European elections are a chance for people to participate in the democratic process. 

The Taoiseach also dismissed any suggestion that he could push for an earlier general election on the back of favourable opinion poll numbers.

Harris, who has previously made clear he would like to see the Government run full term into next year, said his position in relation to the timing of an election has not changed.

He was asked whether the results of the latest Ireland Thinks poll for the Sunday Independent had made him think about calling an early election.

The poll indicated Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are now neck and neck on 22% – with Harris’s party experiencing a three point increase in support in the last month, compared to a sharp seven point drop for Sinn Fein.

Fianna Fail was up one point to 17% while the largest grouping was represented by independents – on 23%.

Harris’s personal approval rating increased to 48% – level with Fianna Fail leader and Tanaiste Micheal Martin – while Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald’s approval rating dropped four points to 36%.

The opinion poll asked voters how they would vote in a general election if it was called tomorrow.

Speaking to reporters in Co Mayo, Harris said he was advising his party faithful not to focus on opinion poll results and instead concentrate on the real elections.

“Of course, it’s always better to be up in a poll than down in a poll, but there’s a poll taking place on Friday,” he said.

“The only thing I want Fine Gael members and supporters to do in relation to the poll this weekend is not pay any attention and keep the eye on the fact that polls will open on Friday and there’ll be an opportunity for people to go out and vote in the local elections and in the European elections right across the country.”

In relation to the likely date of a general election, he added: “The position in relation to the timing of the next general election certainly hasn’t changed.

“This Government has a lot of work to do.

“I’ve tried to hit the ground running in terms of making progress on a number of issues. When it comes to housing, we’re now seeing 350 homes every working day be built in Ireland. We’ve managed over the last couple of weeks to take a number of steps including trying to improve services for children with a disability with additional investment into assessments of need.

“We’ve managed to make some progress on issues that people have been talking about for a long time in terms of recognising the state of Palestine.

“We’ve also managed to take I think a more balanced approach to migration in terms of taking a number of important decisions as well.

“We have a lot of work to do and I’m fully focused on it.”

Asked to respond to Sinn Fein’s apparent slide in the polls, Harris claimed the electorate was seeing through the party’s “noise” and “negativity”.

He also accused the main opposition party of consistently failing to explain to voters how they would achieve their own plans.

“They have one gear Sinn Fein – come in, shout and roar, that’s not going to help fix the challenges in our country,” he added.

- With reporting by David McRedmond and Rónán Duffy

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