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Harris meeting Independent TDs before Dáil vote

Fine Gael leader Simon Harris is arranging meetings this week with Independent TDs who he hopes will back him in a pending Dáil vote to become Taoiseach.

Deputies Denis Naughten, Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish, Matt Shanahan and Cathal Berry confirmed today that they expect to meet Mr Harris.

Another Independent TD considered to be weighing up his options is Michael Lowry.

The Coalition has a slender majority and does not need the support of Independents, however the Government would welcome being able to count on some support.

Confirming he would meet the Fine Gael leader, Mr Grealish said: “Yes. I will be meeting him before the vote on 9 Tuesday.”

Likewise, Mr Naughten said in a text: “Yes. Will be meeting him.”

Mr Fitzpatrick said he had spoken to Mr Harris on the phone and would be meeting him before the return of the Dáil.

Deputy Shanahan said: “I’m looking forward to hearing him reiterate his significant concern to address the many stalled investments in Waterford, a number of which he was/is directly involved: cardiac schedule and promised capital builds at University Hospital Waterford, as well as comprehensive funding to South East Technical University and airport.”

Independent TD Marc McSharry has already indicated that he will back Mr Harris in the vote tomorrow week due to his “personal attention to the amalgamation of St Angela’s College with the Atlantic Technological University”.

Twelve Independent TDs have already indicated they will vote against Mr Harris.

They include: Verona Murphy, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae, Violet Anne-Wynne, Marian Harkin, Mattie McGrath, Michael McNamara, Thomas Pringle, Michael Collins, Michael Fitzmaurice, Richard O’Donoghue and Joan Collins.

Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy called on Independent TDs last week to vote against Mr Harris and trigger a general election, declaring that supporting the new Taoiseach means Independents will be “… voting for a continued crisis in housing, health and disability services, and in the cost-of-living”.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday, Mr Harris said he planned to “flesh-out” his policy plans for Government at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Galway next Saturday, and these would include housing provision, tackling crime and backing small businesses.

He declined to give any information on the make-up of his new Cabinet, but the Longford-Westmeath TD and Minister of State Peter Burke is widely being tipped for a senior ministry.

Mr Harris said: “My genuine obsession is on policy and delivery. And of course, I’ll be choosing ministers in due course, that I believe are best positioned to advance those policies.”

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