Irish unification 'legitimate aspiration': new leader Harris

AFP , Sunday 7 Apr 2024

Simon Harris, who is set to become Ireland's youngest ever prime minister, said on Sunday Irish unification was a "legitimate political aspiration" but not a priority for him as leader.

Fine Gael leader Simon Harris arrives at the 82nd Fine Gael Ard Fheis at the University of Galway, in Galway, Ireland, Saturday April 6, 2024. AP


he 37-year-old was appointed leader of the centre-right Fine Gael party leader last month after the shock resignation of his predecessor Leo Varadkar.

A vote to confirm Harris as Taoiseach (prime minister), which he is expected to win, will be held in the Irish parliament on Tuesday.

Harris has said his main focus will be on "law and order", crafting a "more planned and sustainable" immigration policy and fighting "against the dangers of populism".

On unification, he said he understood the desire of some to see a united Ireland but that this was not "my focus or priority is now".

"We have a peace process that is enduring on this island and is in many ways one of the most successful peace processes in the world, but it's also a frosty peace," he told Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips on Sky News.

"I don't believe we've had an opportunity to see the full potential of prosperity embedded right across the island of Ireland, through the framework of the Good Friday Agreement," he added.

The 1998 agreement largely brought to an end three decades of violence over British rule in Northern Ireland, known as the Troubles, in which some 3,500 people were killed.

Asked about the conflict in Gaza as it reached its half-year point, Harris called for an "immediate ceasefire".

"What we've seen happen in Gaza and the actions of the Israeli government, is utterly reprehensible," he said

"It's appalling and it's grotesque."

He also described the Israeli attack that killed seven aid workers including three Britons earlier this week as "callous and chilling".

He said Ireland stood ready to play its part in a "political process that brings about a two state solution" to the conflict, adding that Ireland understood a lot about political solutions.

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