Tag Archives: Simon Harris

Minister for Health Simon Harris

This morning.

George Lee, of RTÉ, reports:

Minister for Health Simon Harris said he expects to be advised tomorrow to keep the significant restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus in place for a period of weeks but that Ireland will have to move onto a “different terrain” after that.

“What’s highly likely tomorrow is that the National Public Health Emergency Team will recommend that we continue with the very strict restrictions … I expect that to be a period of weeks,” Mr Harris said.

Harris expects Covid-19 restrictions to remain for ‘period of weeks’ (RTÉ)

Previously: Will We Rise Again On The Third Day?

Rollingnews

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to journalists outside government buildings. merrion this morning

No.

This afternoon.

Breakingnews.ie reports:

Restrictions on movement will not be lifted on Easter Sunday.

While the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) have yet to make a formal recommendation to extend the measures, the Health Minister says its highly unlikely they will be relaxed.

NPHET is meeting today to discuss restrictions but will not make a final call until Friday.

‘We know they are working’: Harris says ‘highly unlikely’ restrictions will be lifted on Sunday (Breakingnews.ie)

Pic: Gavan Reilly

Meanwhile…

From top: Dublin city centre under lockdown; President of the Garda Representative Association Detective Garda Jim Mulligan on The Tonight Show last night

Last night.

On Virgin Media One’s The Tonight Show.

President of the Garda Representative Association Detective Garda Jim Mulligan told host Ivan Yates that he didn’t know the specific details of the new powers that emergency legislation has bestowed on gardai during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said that he had discussions with the Department of Justice yesterday about the new regulations but added that he’s still waiting on them.

Detective Mulligan said:

“There needs to be clear and unambiguous understanding of these regulations and there needs to be clarity. The public need to know where they stand, our members need to know where they stand…”

His comments follow the Minister for Health Simon Harris moving the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill 2020 through the Dáil on March 19 without a vote.

In response to submissions from TDs and civil liberties groups, the Government agreed to include a “sunset clause” in the bill. Mr Harris subsequently set the “sunset” date for November 9th, a date he acknowledged was “arbitrary”.

Last night, Det Mulligan told Mr Yates that he read this bill but added:

“We’re hoping they’re [regulations] quite clear and everybody knows where they stand.”

Ultimately though, he said, the gardai will largely be helping the HSE enforce measures in the bill which provide for the forced detention of people who will not self-isolate.

Part 3 of the bill includes powers to restrict the movement of people, including the detention of people whom a medical officer believes is a “potential source of infection”, who cannot be “effectively isolated” or who refuses to remain in their home or in accommodation arranged by the HSE.

The bill defines a person who is a “potential source of infection” as someone who has been in recent contact with a person who is a “probable source of infection of Covid-19” or someone who is suffering from Covid-19, or a person who has attended an event which was attended by another person who is a probable source of infection of Covid-19 or suffering from Covid-19.

The bill provides that a medical officer of health who makes a detention order must ensure that a medical examination of the person who is the subject of the order is carried out as soon as possible and “no later than 14 days” from the time the person has been detained.

It also includes powers to quarantine an area or region where there is thought to be human transmission of Covid-19 and from which there is a “high risk” of contamination emanating by travel from that area.

It also includes powers to close premises, close events, and to arrest people without a warrant in certain circumstances.

Those found to have breached certain restrictions will find themselves subject to fines and/or possible imprisonment of up to three months.

Section 10 of the bill also confers on the Minister “any other measures that the Minister considers necessary in order to prevent, limit, minimise or slow the spread of Covid-19”.

In other words, it gives the minister powers to introduce any measure he wishes in this section by statutory instrument or regulation that does not have to be approved by the Oireachtas.

When the bill was being debated on March 19th, Independent TD Catherine Connolly, a former barrister and clinical psychologist, said the following in respect of the bill’s sections dealing detention.

She said:

“We have a crisis but in times of crisis when we want to put through legislation such as this that is giving seriously broad and excessive powers in my opinion to the Garda Síochána, to the Minister and not just to doctors but to medical officers undefined, then there is a great onus on the Government to place that in context, in particular in the context of our rights under human rights legislation and the European Convention on Human Rights, which we have adopted in our Constitution.

“The absence of protections in the Bill is of great concern to me. I got the amendments to the Bill a half an hour ago and I understand the staff are under pressure.

“Let me pay tribute to the staff of the Dáil but I do not want to waste my time paying more tributes. Take it as given. When we are in a situation where we are looking at amendments and trying to get our heads around the other amendments tabled by my colleagues, it is difficult.

“Then we are looking at legislation we are being asked to pass by 5pm or 6pm today with no sign of protection for human rights.

“That is of great concern to me and if I am prepared to do that, I at least ask the Government to remove the section where an order can be made automatically to renew it.

“The Government should at the very least show good faith and bring this legislation back before us so it gets the approval of the Dáil. If the Government wants us to support it in this extraordinary and “draconian” legislation, then it must show good faith.

“To allow a Minister to renew this on the advice of a medical officer or on some other advice, without bringing it back before us is not showing good faith. It is very important that we show leadership and acknowledge what people are doing on the ground in addition to the staff.

“We must show leadership at this level and bring in legislation that is framed in human rights. It is not that difficult. The Government has to show in this case that the powers are necessary, proportionate and non-discriminatory. We could have all tabled amendments but they will not be heard.

The general principle – non-discriminatory, proportionate and necessary – is nowhere to be seen in this Bill.

“In addition, the preamble talks about citizens. The Minister might take the opportunity to tell me why we are only talking about citizens. Is it simply because we are referring to the Constitution and citizens? Surely we are talking about residents and other people in the country.

“Not alone is the word “citizens” used in the preamble but it is used in another section of the Bill. That is of great concern to me. As I said, extraordinary powers are being given to a Minister, medical officers undefined and the Garda Síochána, with powers of arrest without warrant on a reasonable opinion.

“…This inconsistency throughout the Bill is of great concern. We have detention and isolation for a period of 14 days mentioned. It should be more specific that the person should be tested more quickly than that, not after 14 days.

“Of even more concern is that there is a provision for a review but there is no provision to tell the person he or she can take a review and there is no time date on that review. I am not sure why that was done.”

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Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris at a press conference at Government Buildings this evening

This evening.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and the Minister for Health Simon Harris are holding a press conference at Government Buildings to speak about the new public private partnership with private healthcare providers in response to Covid-19.

During the press conference, Hugh O’Connell, of the Irish Independent, asked Mr Varadkar if he could indicate when Ireland might “start to return to normality”.

Mr Varadkar said he didn’t know.

The question follows Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, saying yesterday that normal life will not likely resume in the UK for at least six months.

In his response, Mr Varadkar said:

“To be honest with you, we don’t know for sure. You know, this is a new virus and you can only be so much of an expert on a virus that’s only been known to the world for three or four months and some of the estimations and assumptions we might have had two or three weeks ago are different now and they may be different again in two or three weeks again.

“What is going to happen this evening is Philip Nolan, who’s heading up our group on modelling, is going to speak at the press conference tonight with the chief medical officer [Tony Holohan] and the idea is that every week or so the model will be updated and that will be shared with the public because we want to be as transparent as possible.

“But in being transparent we need people to understand that by putting information out there, and we want to put all the information out there, it may turn out to be incorrect and you’ll just have to bear with us on that in many ways or it may change over time.

“Certainly what the UK is talking about and I think what a lot of people around the world are talking about now is that there will come a point after the epidemic is peaked and the number of new cases starts falling, when we will start to ease the restrictions and then we’ll have to see what happens so we won’t be in a situation whereby I suddenly go on TV and make an address to the nation and say everything is going back to the way it was on the 11th of March.

“That’s probably not what’s going to happen. What is likely to happen is that the number of new cases will continue to rise, we’ll reach a peak, hopefully that will be in a few weeks’ time and not in a few months’ time.

“The number of new cases will start to fall and will reach the point where we can start to ease some of the restrictions and then see what happens, whether the number of cases starts to rise again or not.”

Nucleocapsid?

Meanwhile…

Later, Jennifer Bray, of The Irish Times, asked Mr Harris about the shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) that Ireland has ordered from China.

Ms Bray asked if Ireland has any “guarantees” about the quality of the items, in light of the Netherlands recalling hundreds of thousands of masks that it received from China.

This morning, China’s Ambassador to Ireland He Xiangdong told RTÉ’s Rachael English that China would do its best.

Mr Harris said:

“In relation to the quality of the PPE coming into the country, Paul Reid [CEO of the HSE], the head of the HSE, has publicly said that any PPE purchased by the HSE needs to meet World Health Organisation standards and also will be checked on arrival.

“So it’s a job that the HSE needs to do, they’ve a duty of care to their staff and we obviously need to ensure that any PPE distributed throughout the health service meets the WHO standards and they certainly said that’s absolutely their intention and view in relation to the equipment they bought.”

Earlier: “I Think That We Will Try Our Best”

This morning.

Government Buildings, Dublin 2.

Minister for Health Simon Harris speaking to the media on his way into Government Buildings in Dublin, as the Cabinet met to consider updated recommendations on tackling the coronavirus from the National Public Health Emergency Team. To wit:

The measures are likely to take in restaurants, cafés, hairdressers and a range of other service sectors regarded as non-essential.

Restrictions will also be introduced for outside gatherings.

While the measures will not be an exact replica of what has been announced in the UK, they will be significant.

Cabinet set to agree significant new restrictions (RTÉ)

Leah Farrell/RollingNews

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland

This morning.

Further to repeated calls from politicians and health experts for people to maintain “social distancing” of two metres, and suggestions that further restrictions on people’s movement will be put in place on account of the coronavirus, Health Minister Simon Harris told Bryan Dobson on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland:

“We did see, over the course of this weekend see scenes of large gatherings, the one in Glendalough perhaps might have been the one that most people were talking about.

“I’m very pleased that the council stepped in there and said ‘look, we can’t properly socially distance here, we’re shutting down the car park, we’re shutting down the food premises. That’s the sort of decisive action that needs to be taken…

“To be very clear to everybody in Ireland today, you need to abide by the social distancing, that means there should be two metres between you and other people.

“If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be operating. Tomorrow the National Public Health Emergency team will meet. We’ve been very clear, myself and the Taoiseach, we won’t be making decisions based on kind of Twitter trends or political populism, we’ll follow the public health advice.

“Tomorrow Tony Holohon’s team will consider if there are further recommendations to be made to Government and I quite frankly expect that it’s likely we’re going to be receiving further recommendations from them…

“…we know that the two metres needs to be abided by and perhaps we know that there are some places where that hasn’t been possible to happen. So perhaps greater guidance in relation to playgrounds and public spaces could be useful as well and perhaps greater supports and guidance for businesses too…”

Meanwhile…

Alternatively…

Paul Cullen, in today’s The Irish Times, reports that 40,000 people across Ireland are waiting for a coronavirus test.

Mr Cullen reports:

The HSE is now acknowledging people are waiting an average of four to five days to get tested; add in at least another two days for the swabbed sample to be processed and results reported back to the patients, and that gives an average delay of a week.

This is bad news for a system allegedly following the World Health Organisation advice to “test, test, test”. It is also of concern that it has taken so long for the system to admit to the delays, after journalists were last week being fobbed off with non-specific answers to their questions.

…The real problem is that the delays in testing are causing knock-on delays in contact tracing, the other essential element in the two-pronged approach used by Asian countries to successfully tackle their epidemics.

…The weekend has been dominated by discourse about a minority of people not observing social distancing rules. In reality, we are more likely to need a lockdown as a result of misfiring testing and contract tracing systems than because people chose to take walks on beaches and in parks.

Coronavirus: Delays in testing and tracing are the real problem (Paul Cullen, The Irish Times)

 

Hueston Station, Dublin this morning

This morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris spoke to Bryan Dobson  on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland.

It followed a decision of the National Health Emergency Team last night, that people returning from Spain and Italy will be given leaflets at Irish airports in which they’ll be encouraged to restrict their movements for the next two weeks, specifically to not go to work and to lessen their social contacts.

In regards to people returning from Cheltenham, Mr Harris said they will get information about symptoms.

The Health Minister also said:

“We’re more likely to get this virus in our home from bad practice in terms of hand hygiene and the like, so do please follow the health advice. You have a really important role to play.”

Of the closures announced yesterday, he said:

“They’re in place now until the 29th of March, they’ll be reviewed right through the process and reviewed again on the 29th of March. If they need to be extended they will be but we need see. We’ve taken some very, very significant measures that are asking people in our country to alter their behaviour quite significantly for the next fortnight. We’ll only obviously continue those measures if it’s absolutely necessary and if they’re proving to have a benefit.

“So at this stage it’s too early to say [if they closures be extended for a longer period of time].”

“….It is an absolutely reality that this is something that could be with us for many, many months and we have to be conscious when we’re taking those measures as well, that measures we take have to be sustainable. We have to try to keep our country going, not to put our country into lockdown, we need people to go to work today and we need people to bake the bread and supply our supermarkets and we need our healthcare professionals to get to work.

“And we need to look after each other as well. So all of the measures we’re taking have to be seen through that prism.

This is not a storm that goes away after a couple of days. This is asking people to alter our behaviour and change our lives for quite a period of time ahead.”

He also said:

“We have a suite of measures but we have to implement them at the right time and I think what we’ve now shown is a willingness to do that, to listen and to act quickly and decisively and we’ll continue to do that.

Obviously all of the measures that have been put in place could be scaled up, if the need arose so we have banned gatherings indoors of 100 people, outdoors of 500 people, there’s obviously potential to do that,

“But what we won’t be doing is kind of strongman, macho politics movements where you’re looking like you’re doing something for he sake of doing something. We’ll be following the science here, we’ll be following the doctors’ advice, we’ll be listening to the chief medical officer and we’ll be acting.”

“…It’s very much a marathon not a sprint. Our country is not in lockdown. This is still, the same great country it was yesterday. We’re just asking everybody to live their lives a little bit differently so that we can try and make a real national collective effort.”

Listen back in full here

From top: St Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin last year; Minister for Health Simon Harris

This morning.

Minister for Health Simon Harris spoke to Dr Gavin Jennings on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland about the coronavirus.

It follows reports yesterday that 1.9million people in Ireland, or 40 per cent of the population, are ‘likely’ to become sick with the virus.

As of this morning, there have been 21 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland.

The interview also came ahead of a Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 meeting later today.

Among matters they discussed included how people forced to stop working will cope financially, the number of Intensive Care Unit beds in the country and St Patrick’s Day festivities.

Mr Harris also told Dr Jennings that there is “a moderate to high risk” that Ireland “will follow a pattern seen in other European countries”.

From the interview…

Gavin Jennings: “Have you made a decision on paying people who have to stay at home. If people are going to be asked to self-isolate for 14 days to help contain the virus, how are they going to do that with no income? Are they going to get sick pay? Or are you going to give them statutory pay?”

Simon Harris: “So, at the moment, as you know. If you’re out sick, or told to stay at home, you can access social protection supports. The challenge is you can’t access them for a number of days.

“One of the things we’ve been looking at across Government is can you reduce that waiting period so people can get support more quickly. And that’s something we’ll be considering today.

“The best way of doing it is something…”

Jennings: “Sorry, have you made a decision yet?”

Harris: “The Cabinet committee will make a decision today. We met with, and I wasn’t, I wasn’t involved in these meetings but the trade unions and the employer representative groups had meetings with Government officials in Government buildings. And we receive recommendations at the Cabinet committee.

“The only thing we’re trying to…we’re very clear on what we want to do here. And we want to provide the support. The only question that remains is how best do we do that and we’ll consider that this morning.”

Jennings: “At the moment, all confirmed cases are being treated in isolation in hospital. How much longer is that going to be the case?”

Harris: “So that is a clinical call that will be made by the public health emergency team. And let me just explain why that is. One of the reasons we’ve been asking people who have tested positive and have the illness, even if they’re reasonably well in themselves.

“One of the reasons they’ve been staying in hospital, rather than self-isolating at home is, remember this is a very, very new virus. And it’s providing an opportunity for our healthcare professionals to continue to monitor and learn more about it. And that information will stand us in good stead.

“But you are quite correct. You will get to a point in time where it will not make sense for people who have tested positive, but are reasonably well, to take up a bed when there could be somebody who’s positive and not well, who requires that bed. So we have a protocol in place to enable people who test positive to self isolate at home and our public health emergency team will decide when to make that switchover.”

Jennings: “What are you going to do when there are more critically ill people than there are ICU beds? What’s the plan?”

Harris: “So there’s a couple of elements to this plan. The first, as you know, is we’re expanding ICU capacity and we gave another €21million to the health service last week to open more ICU beds….”

Jennings: “Brings it up to about 300, isn’t that right?”

Harris: “That’s about right. They’re continuing to look at opportunities across the health service to open more beds and those beds will be funded. We’re also going to engage our private hospitals, it’s quite likely that if you got to a situation where this virus outbreaks in a serious way, that many elected procedures in private hospitals could yet be cancelled. So they may have capacity. So we’re looking at that as well.”

“We’re also looking at one of the other ways you can increase capacity, is obviously increasing the workforce. So lifting any kind of restrictions on recruitment. Up until now obviously all recruitment, you’ve only been able to recruit funded posts. That’s the norm. But making it more flexible to recruit more people, bringing back from experts, and also looking at the possibility of our model two hospitals, they’re our smaller hospitals, Gavin, having capacity to do more in relation to isolation.

“I do need to say, and I know you know this, but it’s important for our listeners to know this. Most people who get this will not require ICU. Even those who require hospitalisation, many of them will not require ICU. But it is true that we have a shortage here in Ireland.

“But indeed there’s a global shortage and this is a challenge that we’re seeing, health services are seeing it in Italy today. So everything that can be done is being done.”

Later

Jennings: “Italy had 20 confirmed cases on February 21, now it’s almost 16,000. And they have 16million in lockdown. We have 21 confirmed cases and everything is going ahead as normal. Why aren’t we trying to get ahead of this disease?”

Harris: “So we really are. And I wouldn’t accept that everything is going ahead as normal. We had our first confirmed case of this last weekend and since then you’ve seen the benefit of the work that’s been done since January with the number of key decisions made. We’ve shown a willingness to cancel events, as is appropriate. There were a number of rugby games due to take place in this country over the weekend that didn’t on the basis of public health advice.

“We’ve set up a stakeholders forum to bring together all of civic society, unions, employers, voluntary groups and that’s met twice. There’s a new Cabinet committee convened. We’ve changed our protocols so the national ambulance service is now doing a really good job, going out and doing testing in people’s homes. Saves them having to come into the hospital. We have information and experts available in all of our airports providing information and we’ve expanded our ICU beds.

“And we will do more. But it is important to say, I mean Ireland is at at early stage of progression here compared to other European countries. You referenced Italy but look also at France, at Germany, the UK. But you’re right. There’s a moderate to high risk, we can’t sugarcoat this. There’s a moderate to high risk that we will follow a pattern seen in other European countries and that’s what we’re preparing for and what we’re working around the clock for.”

Jennings: “France is cancelling public gatherings of over 1,000 people. Germany is considering doing the same. Is it responsible to allow St Patrick’s Day festival and gatherings to go ahead now?”

Harris: “So I’ve been Minister for Health for nearly four years and I’ve learned  a lot in that time. And what I’ve learned mostly is that if you listen to your public health advice and public health experts, you won’t usually go far wrong. Our public health experts are considering the issue of St Patrick’s Day as we speak and I expect clarity to be brought to that within the next 24 to 48 hours. I’ve no interest to be making decisions to be seen to take action if our public health experts don’t believe it will make a difference.

“But whatever our public health experts guide us on in terms of St Patrick’s Day is what the Government will go with. The chief medical officer and others are providing us with expert advice, round-the-clock, in what is a fast, evolving situation. This is changing not just in Ireland but around the world on a very regular basis and we’ll meet again this morning just after 11am and we’ll have a chance to assess this.”

Jennings: “But there are also political decisions that need to be made, decisions that will need to be made by politicians and by Government. Do you really think that you’re showing responsibility by allowing these gatherings go ahead?”

Harris: “Well, just to be clear, they haven’t gone ahead yet. So the Italy V Ireland rugby game did not go ahead because the public health advice was that it shouldn’t proceed. And we will take the same approach to St Patrick’s Day in terms of the public health advice. We will follow that to the letter….”

Listen back in full here

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…


From top:  Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher, Independent TD Denis Naughten, Fine Gael TD Simon Harris  and Former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil Mary O’Rourke

This morning.

Official Ireland’s freak out continues.

On RTÉ’s Today With Seán O’Rourke.

Mr O’Rourke spoke to a number of politicians and former politicians, including former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil Mary O’Rourke; Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher; Independent TD Denis Naughten and Fine Gael TD Simon Harris.

Listeners were also informed that RTÉ had requested someone from Sinn Féin to join the show but this did not happen.

The panel discussion followed Fianna Fáil taking 38 Dáil seats (which includes the seat of the Ceann Comhairle); Sinn Féin 37; Fine Gael 35; Independents/Others 21; Green Party 12; Labour 6; Social Democrats 6; and Solidarity/People Before Profit 5, in the general election.

Former deputy leader of Fianna Fáil Mary O’Rourke said:

“Now, the momentum right now is with the Sinn Féin party and its leadership as they go around to gather like-minded people…”

“My belief now is that when that day comes [the election of a Taoiseach], when, if Mary Lou McDonald will be put forward as the leader of her party for the role of Taoiseach that Fianna Fáil should not participate in that vote…”

“…But for me now, I’m quite clear and I want it, to say it, we stick with Micheál Martin because for me and for many of my ilk, he is the person who is still the best to lead us out of the electoral difficulties in which we now find ourselves. You didn’t ask me about that but I’m telling you that.”

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said:

“The idea that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would find some small party and coalesce in advance of giving the process of the people’s will an opportunity to play out would simply be an affront to democracy. I mean, we have to accept that Sinn Féin has 37 seats. It’s the largest popular vote.

“Mary Lou McDonald has said quite clearly she wants to put together a coalition that would exclude Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and, you know, there’s an obligation on her to try and ensure…”

“…if Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael somehow got together today or tomorrow, brought in a few Independents, and rammed through into Government, what do you think would be said by Sinn Féin and everybody else and the public at large…”

Independent TD Denis Naughten, who was re-elected in Roscommon/Galway on the fifth count, said:

“The reality is that no one’s manifesto got a clear mandate from the people whether it was the Sinn Féin manifesto, the Fianna Fáil manifesto, the Fine Gael manifesto or any manifesto.

“And I believe what needs to happen in this stage is to allow time for the parties to consult with their own organisations, that they should sit down, everyone, around a single table and negotiate a national programme for Government that would take in the best elements of the various manifestos.

“Because the one thing that I got on the doorsteps from people is that they’re sick and tired of the political bickering that has been going on. They want to see politicians collectively coming together and implement practical solutions in terms of health, housing, regional balance, agriculture and so forth…”

“…yes, this is a hung parliament so to speak that we now have as a result of the vote of the electorate but that’s what the electorate voted for. The responsibility is on us now to form an operational government.”

Former Minister for Health Fine Gael TD Simon Harris, who was re-elected in Wicklow last night on the 15th count, said:

“I agree with Billy Kelleher on this. That the process should be that Mary Lou McDonald is the leader of the largest party, who got the most votes in the election. She should now do what she said she was going to do.

“She made a lot of promises, a lot of commitments, let her off now and see if she can try and form a Government.

“I wish her well in that regard.

“…if she can’t, if she can’t, I do think there’s an obligation on the centre of Irish politics, which still won a hell of a lot of votes by the way. You would think from some of the media commentary that everybody voted Sinn Féin – 76% of people did not vote for Sinn Féin to be in Government.”

Asked if he thinks Leo Varadkar should step down as leader of Fine Gael, Mr Harris said:

“Absolutely not…our Taoiseach has performed extremely well, he performed very well as leader, he did extremely well in the debates…”

“…this was a very difficult election. It was a very difficult election for all parties but Sinn Féin. And Leo Varadkar is the leader of Fine Gael and will continue to be the leader of Fine Gael and whether in Government or in opposition, he’ll continue to promote our policies and values.”

Listen back in full here