Tag Archives: Simon Harris

Irish local and E.U. election outcomes offer surprises

Pressure continues building from within the coalition government to hold a national general election in the Republic of Ireland before the end of the year, perhaps Oct. 18 or Oct. 25. That brings this coverage of the local and E.U. election full circle (see original post at bottom). Remember, U.K. (Northern Ireland) elections are July 5. Happy Bloomsday and Father’s Day. MH

UPDATE 5: Counting completed

After a week of counting under Ireland’s proportional representation system, June 7 election totals are now complete. Among 14 European Union seats, Fianna Fáil doubled its previous total to four; Fianna Gael also has four seats, one fewer than before the election; Sinn Féin doubled from one to two seats; Labor took one seat and independent candidates claimed three. 

UPDATE 4: Local seat totals & turnout

With a 49 percent election turnout, the tally of 949 county and urban district seats shows:

  • Fianna Fáil, 248
  • Fianna Gael, 245
  • Independents, 227
  • Four small party total, 127
  • Sinn Féin, 102

Only 6 of 14 European Union seats had been resolved as of June 13.

UPDATE 3: Call him Mayor Moran

Independent candidate John Moran has emerged as Ireland’s first directly-elected mayor in his native city of Limerick. Mayors are normally elected by local councilors and for one-year terms. “If the new position proves a success, if Moran makes it a success over the next five years, it could well trigger similar elections in other local authority areas and potentially the biggest shake-up in local government in decades, the Irish Times reports. The story details Moran’s high-profile background, including work as a lawyer and investment banker in the U.S.

UPDATE 2: Time to undo Mary Lou?

Media speculation over whether Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald can survive her party’s poor election result is gathering pace, even as local and E.U. counting continues Tuesday morning (U.S. time):

“If Sinn Féin strategists were hoping to conduct their 2024 election postmortem in private, they might be seriously disappointed. The party is struggling to contain the fallout from the local and European elections and, for the first time, McDonald’s leadership is on the table as an item for discussion.” — Irish Times

“(McDonald) adopted an open borders policy which would allow mass immigration into Ireland. (Her) attempts to become respectable with the overwhelmingly liberal and middle-class Dublin mediocracy quite simply blew up in her face, as rising non-EU immigration has come to dominate the political agenda.” The Spectator

The unexpected level of lost support has cast doubt on the leadership of McDonald and her longtime status as a prime minister-in-waiting. Their fall from public favor has left Sinn Féin activists stunned, demoralized and speculating over whether the party needs a new leader in time for a general election that must happen by March.” Politico.eu

UPDATE 1: Uncoupled doubleness

” … The modern Sinn Féin on the one hand drew on the same kind of ethnonationalist identity politics that now fuel the far right across Europe, the United States and elsewhere. Yet on the other, it thought of itself as a progressive socialist party, committed to equality and inclusion. … This doubleness created a kind of ambivalence that was very useful in a society experiencing a very rapid transition from monoculture to multiculture. … And for about a quarter of a century, this accidental mechanism was extremely effective. … What we’ve now seen in the election numbers are the first effects of (an) uncoupling: a shrinking of Sinn Féin’s vote and the emergence of the far right as a potentially viable political force.” — Fintan O’Toole in the Irish Times.


June 7 local and European Union election results in the Republic of Ireland have prompted fresh calls for a national government contest before the March 2025 deadline. Taoiseach Simon Harris has doubled down on his earlier commitment to have the existing coalition government run its full five-year course until spring. Harris, of Fine Gael, became the Irish leader in early April after the unexpected resignation of Leo Varadkar.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the main coalition partners, have done better than expected in the local elections, each polling about 23 percent. Independent and small party candidate surged to just over 28 percent of the vote at the expense of Sinn Féin, which fell shy of 12 percent. As of early June 10, U.S. East Coast time, 829 of 849 city and county council seats had been decided.

The outcome in Ireland’s 14 European Parliament races is still developing. Far-right candidates in other E.U. member nations have made gains, but the centrist governing coalition in Brussels is expected to hold.

Regardless of what Harris says, Irish political observers expect snap election will take place before the year-end holidays. Why should Ireland miss the “year of elections,” as at least 64 countries (plus the E.U. assembly) decide the representation of about half the world’s population. French President Emmanuel Macron Sunday was forced to call an election for later this month after his centrist alliance was roughed up by the right in his country’s E.U. ballot.

Sixty-two percent of respondents to an online poll at TheJournal.ie website favored holding the Irish national election before the end of this year. Disclosure: I participated in the poll on June 9 in order to see the result and take the screen grab shown here.

Regardless of when the election is scheduled in the next nine months, voters in the Republic will follow the electorate in Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The national election there is set for July 4, with the Tory government predicted to fall to the British Labor Party.

A total of 136 candidates are running in Northern Ireland, nearly three dozen more than the last election five years ago. The more moderate Alliance and the Social Democrat and Labor Party (SDLP) are contesting all 18 constituencies, while the pro-reunification Sinn Féin and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are each skipping a few races, according to the BBC.

The DUP were knocked off stride in March, when leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson resigned after being charged with sex crimes. He is not seeking re-election in his Lagan Valley constituency. The DUP had already lost top billing to Sinn Féin in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Assembly.

On recognition & partition: Ireland, Israel, & Palestine

Ireland’s decision to recognize Palestinian statehood has gravely disrupted diplomatic relations between Ireland and Israel. The latter condemned the gesture as “a reward for terrorism” perpetrated by Hamas in October and withdrew its ambassador from Dublin.

On May 22, Irish Taoiseach Simon Harris said:

“On the 21st of January 1919 Ireland asked the world to recognize our right to be an independent State. Our ‘Message to the Free Nations of the World’ was a plea for international recognition of our independence, emphasizing our distinct national identity, our historical struggle, and our right to self-determination and justice. Today we use the same language to support the recognition of Palestine as a State.” Read his full statement, which also condemns the Hamas attack and supports the Israeli state.

The recognition has generated a new round of media stories about why the Irish identify so strongly with the Palestinians. Such reports began long before the civilian death toll in Gaza from Israeli military strikes surpassed the number of victims from the Hamas incursion into Israel.

Palestinian flag

Fourteen months before that attack, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab wrote a piece headlined “Comparing the Palestinian and Irish-Catholic Struggles.” In each case, he wrote, “a powerful force oppressed local indigenous populations in a clearly racist and paternalistic fashion.” He also details their differences with today’s Northern Ireland.

Kuttab noted that U.S. President Joe Biden, during a July 2022 speech in East Jerusalem, compared the Irish-Catholic struggle against Great Britain to the Palestinians against Israel. But the journalist questioned whether Biden, a strong supporter of Israel, is capable of “real and actionable policies related to Israel and the Palestinians.” The Biden administration has criticized Ireland’s recognition of Palestine, which was joined by Spain and Norway. But Ireland enjoys far more attention and goodwill from the U.S. government than the other two European nations.

In late May, a headline in the Jesuit magazine, America, declared, “Ireland recognizes Palestinian statehood: Why many Irish people resonate with the conflict in Palestine.”

Notice for Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign protest against U.S. weapons to Israel being shipped through Ireland. The bill has been delayed.

The piece quotes an Irish documentary filmmaker who says the Irish have a deep cultural memory of British rule and know what being colonized by a stronger neighbor is like more than most nations. The filmmaker has documented the efforts of peace activists to prevent the U.S. military from using Shannon airport in the west of Ireland as a refueling stopover for its Middle East adventurism, including arms shipments to Israel.

Catherine Connolly, an independent member of the Irish parliament, raised the Shannon issue in a May 23 interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! Connolly rejected the suggestion that Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is a prize for terrorism. “This is a step for peace,” she said.

Partition plans

The sectarian and territorial conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis parallel those between nationalists and unionists, Catholics and Protestants, in the north of Ireland, as detailed by M.C. Rast at History Today.

Ireland and Palestine: United by Partition?” recounts how British officials in late 1930s planned to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states in much the same way they had divided Ireland along sectarian lines nearly two decades earlier. A British report suggested “the gulf between Arabs and Jews in Palestine is wider than that which separates Northern Ireland from the Irish Free State.”

Rast also quotes Dublin’s Irish Independent newspaper as saying: “Partition is the Englishman’s favorite way out of a difficulty. But it is in itself a confession of failure.”

Economic impact

The economic impact of Ireland’s recognition of Palestine is beginning to take shape. Israel’s national airlines announced it will not renew direct flights to Dublin, which were only launched last year. Irish officials have said its €15 billion sovereign investment fund would divest from six Israeli companies, the Irish Times reported.

Israeli flag

Israel’s trade deficit with Ireland was €4 billion in 2022. Israeli imports totaled €5 billion, seventh largest among trading partners, but less than a quarter of the U.K.-leading €29 billion and U.S. second-place €22 billion.

Just under 600 Israelis lived in Ireland in 2022, according to the Central Statistics Office. The same census return does not indicate the number of Palestinians, while 2016 data showed fewer than 200 Palestinians. There were fewer than 3,000 Jews living in Ireland in 2016 compared to more than 63,000 Muslims. These figures do not include Northern Ireland.

For more on how activists in Ireland are responding to the recognition, visit the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Ireland Israel Alliance.

Catching up with modern Ireland

March was a newsy month for Ireland, including the failed constitutional referendum, a sour St. Patrick’s Day visit to the White House, and the shock resignation of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Here’s some coverage and commentary that has caught my attention:

Varadkar resignation, Harris ascension, Donaldson resignation


The messiah complex: Neither Leo Varadkar, nor anyone else, could be a ‘savior’ of Fine Gael, Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times (Ireland)

“He was able, articulate and – in the twin crises of Brexit and the Covid pandemic – reassuringly adept. But his great talent was for riding out contradictions, not for resolving them. He managed to walk the line between politician and anti-politician, conservative instincts and an increasingly progressive society. …”

Update 1: The governing Fine Gael has selected Simon Harris as its new leader. There was no opposition to him within the party. At 37, he is set to become Ireland’s youngest taoiseach on April 9; a year younger than Varadkar when he took the job in June 2017. Some are already calling Harris the “TikTok Taoiseach.”

Harris was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and managed Ireland’s COVID-19 response as minister for education, research and science. He has dismissed calls for a general election before the scheduled contest in March 2025.

Update 2: Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland, abruptly resigned March 29 after being charged with sexual offenses. Leaders of the Northern Ireland say the development will not impact the power-sharing government, but it has rocked Irish and British politics.

Reverse reads on referendum result

Ireland’s Snakes of Secularization“, National Catholic Register (USA)

There is a very understandable desire among the faithful in Ireland — and elsewhere — to interpret this month’s rejection by Irish voters of a pair of “woke” constitutional amendments as a decisive Catholic inflection point. According to this narrative, the unexpected and overwhelming rejection of these amendments represents a watershed moment in terms of reversing the tide of secularization that has washed over Irish society in recent decades. Unfortunately, that’s probably untrue. … The hostility of voters toward the progressive inanities expressed by both amendments can’t be taken as a sign that secularism is now generally on the wane in Ireland — or that a concomitant rebirth of Catholic faith is broadly underway.

Ireland and the terrible truth about wokeness“, Spiked (England)

Ireland has become hyper-woke. Its elites are fully converted to the gender cult. They promote the ruthless policing of ‘hate speech’, which really means dissent. They damn as ‘far right’ anyone who raises a peep of criticism about immigration. Their culture war on the past is relentless. Woke is the state religion of Ireland now. And if you thought Catholic Ireland was sexist, irrational and illiberal, just wait until you see what wokeness unleashes. … The irony is too much: in ostentatiously distancing themselves from bad old religious Ireland, the elites have created a system of neo-religious dogmas that makes the Catholic era seem positively progressive in comparison.

Green (and blue) at the White House


Can the Irish Get Biden to Change His Policies on Gaza?, New York (USA)

Many of the actual Irish — the ones who came over from Éire for this annual celebration of the shamrock diaspora — spent the afternoon trying to talk sense to Biden over his Gaza policies, and his confounding (to them) support of Israel’s relentless military response to Hamas. … The Irish have a long-held kinship with the Palestinians. They see parallels between their struggle against Israel and the Irish struggle against British rule. They see in the famine that is gripping Gaza today a tragic echo of their own. This has been true for decades, but never more so than now. … So just beneath all the stout suds, these were the fault lines on display at Biden’s St. Patrick’s Day party this year: his assumption that the Irish were his friends and that so were the Israelis. But it’s no longer so easy to be both.

Three more stories:

  • Britain is appealing a ruling against its Legacy Act, which gives amnesty to ex-soldiers and militants involved in Northern Ireland’s “Troubles.” Victims’ families have challenged the law, and a Belfast court in February ruled it breached human rights. The Irish government is separately contesting the law before the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Rose Dugdale, who left a life of wealth to become a partisan activist fighting for Irish independence in the 1970s, died in Dublin, aged 82.
  • The Central Statistics Office launched the Women and Men in Ireland Hub, ” which features data from the CSO and other public sources broken down into six main themes: Gender Equality, Work, Education, Health, Safety & Security and Transport.