Simon Harris promises to introduce ‘firmer’ immigration system in first speech as Fine Gael leader 

Mr Harris said he plans to “hit the ground running”. 
Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

18.42 6 Apr 2024

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Simon Harris promises to intro...

Simon Harris promises to introduce ‘firmer’ immigration system in first speech as Fine Gael leader 

Ellen Kenny
Ellen Kenny

18.42 6 Apr 2024

Share this article

Newly-appointed Fine Gael leader Simon Harris has promised to introduce a “firmer” immigration system to Ireland. 

Speaking at the Ard Fheis in Galway this evening, Mr Harris said people come to Ireland “in search of a better life”, but the State needs a “fair and firm system”. 

“The Irish Government has signed up to the biggest overhaul of Migration rules in decades,” he said. 


“This will be a firmer system - it will ensure those who need our help will get it, but it will also ensure those who are not entitled to come to this country get a decision quickly and leave quickly as well.” 

He said Ireland needs to “to move away from the emergency use of hotels for housing asylum seekers”. 

“But the implementation will be key and engagement with communities is essential,” he said. 

Praise for Varadkar

Mr Harris was appointed leader of Fine Gael after Leo Varadkar’s shock resignation. 

He thanked Mr Varadkar “for guiding us through major challenges of our generation: Brexit and the Covid pandemic”. 

“To paraphrase your own words in that unforgettable St. Patrick’s Day broadcast: ‘In years to come they will say of you, when things were at their worst, you were at your best’,” he said. 

In his first Ard Fheis address as party leader, Mr Harris made wide-ranging promises and said he plans to “hit the ground running”. 

Simon Harris outside Leinster House on his first day as a TD, 09/03/2011. Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland First day of the 31st Dail. Newly elected Fine Gael TD for Wicklow, Simon Harris arrives at the Dail for the first sitting of the 31st Dail, Simon Harris promises to introduce ‘firmer’ immigration system in first speech as Fine Gael leader. Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

He also promised that Fine Gael will build 250,000 houses over the next five years. 

“We will build more starter homes for young people to buy,” he said. 

“Fine Gael introduced the Help to Buy scheme. It has helped 45,000 families, including 2,000 here in Galway. 

“Under my leadership, this party will extend Help to Buy for a further five years.” 

'Humanitarian catastrophe' in Gaza

Mr Harris also condemned the "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.

"We condemn the massacre carried out by Hamas in October and again call for the release of all hostages - but we cannot stay silent on the actions of Israel either," he said.

"Reason has been replaced by revenge and by the bombing, maiming and death of children.

"Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Irish people could not be clearer: we are repulsed by your actions. Ceasefire now and let the aid flow safely."

Harris on law and order

Mr Harris also paid particular attention to improving law and order, which he referred to as a “core value” for Fine Gael. 

“We stand for more Gardaí, with more powers and more resources to make our streets safe,” he said. 

“This year, we will bring forward new measures to increase penalties for knife crime and new measures on antisocial behaviour which has become too dominant in our communities. 

“Last November we witnessed thugs and criminals set fire to our capital city - they destroyed businesses, Garda cars, without a care in the world. 

“As Taoiseach, I will immediately convene a Dublin City Centre taskforce bringing together the Council, retailers, business, community groups and Gardaí to chart a path towards a safer and vibrant Dublin.” 

Mr Harris is expected to be elected Taoiseach on April 9th. He currently has the support of Government politicians six independent TDs so far. 

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