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‘Intention’ around timing of election not changed

The Taoiseach has said his “intention” around the general election has not changed and he is very pleased with the results of the local and European elections so far.

Simon Harris said his party has received more first preference votes in both and he believes Fine Gael is in a very good chance for MEP seats.

Mr Harris also responded to comments made by Green Party leader Eamon Ryan about personal attacks for electoral gain during RTÉ’s Prime Time last night.

Speaking on the programme, Mr Ryan said that was not acceptable that when parties in a coalition government “look for their electoral advantage [by] tackling colleagues with accusations that are not true.

“We are not autocratic we are democratic,” Mr Ryan said, “we work well in Coalition, we are not out there lambasting our colleagues or doing personal attacks on Government colleagues – I think that is totally inappropriate and wrong.

“People in our own party have said things but not that systemic attack for electoral gain.

“When you depict it as the last thing that Ireland wants – I don’t agree with that – but it did impact on us and we have to reflect on that.”

This morning, Mr Harris said it is entirely appropriate for people to express views during an election but that should happen in a civil and respectful way.

He said the coalition is working well together.

The Taoiseach also expressed concerns around the rise of the far right in Europe and said that it cannot be overstated here.

“We have seen it significantly grow in some European countries and we are not immune from that here,” Mr Harris said.

He said now is the time for centrist politicians to show “courage and guts” on big issues that are on people’s minds as he warned of the consequences if that does not happen, with a vacuum allowed to develop with extremes.

He also said he welcomes the fact that the EPP has grown in strength.

Separately, the Taoiseach said that he would like to see a ban on the XL bully dog and that there is a “clear need” for Government action on this.

He said the issues around this breed of dog will be discussed at Cabinet today as he expressed his sympathies to the family of Nicole Morey, who died after being attacked by an XL Bully dog in Co Limerick last week.

Mr Harris also said he would like to see the work carried out by the task force that was established to examine the issues.

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