Derry & Strabane reps brand Taoiseach Simon Harris 'out of touch' over comments on Belfast, Derry v Paris, Berlin

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Derry City and Strabane District Councillors have criticised newly-appointed Taoiseach Simon Harris, accusing him of being “out of touch” and calling for the establishment of a Citizen’s Assembly on Irish Unity.

It follows recent Mr Harris’ recent comments that people of his generation were more familiar with Berlin and Paris than they were with places like Derry and Belfast.

At the April Full Council meeting this week, Sinn Féin councillor Paul Boggs proposed that the council writes to Mr Harris, asking that he establish a citizens’ assembly on unity “as a matter of urgency”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Young people on this island are leaving in droves to seek better opportunities elsewhere,” Councillor Boggs said. “And the harsh reality of the negative impact of partition has caused horror for public services. Many languish on hospital waiting lists, people have to live in the box room of their parents’ house, and opportunities to thrive are few and far between.

Taoiseach Simon Harris has been criticised for his remarks.Taoiseach Simon Harris has been criticised for his remarks.
Taoiseach Simon Harris has been criticised for his remarks.

“Simon Harris is out of touch with young people on this island and our desire for real change and a new Ireland,” he claimed.

“A citizens’ Assembly will allow for planning and discussion on a new Ireland to ensure this place flourishes and is a place where people have the opportunity to stay, to live, and to thrive.”

People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin was also in favour of the Assembly and a “united socialist Ireland”, and said Mr Harris’ comments were “absolutely disgraceful”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“But I wasn’t surprised,” Councillor Harkin added. “This is Fine Gael, a party which, alongside Fianna Fáil, has done tremendous damage to working class people for decades,” he claimed.

Left to right: SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney, People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin and Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Boggs.Left to right: SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney, People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin and Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Boggs.
Left to right: SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney, People Before Profit Councillor Shaun Harkin and Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Boggs.

SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said he was in favour of a new Citizen’s Assembly to “talk about the reunification of the country”.

Councillor Tierney said he recently attended a meeting with representatives from the office of An Taoiseach, who said the new Taoiseach was “well aware of the shared island and its benefits”.

“It’s a shame he’s not aware of what sharing the island actually means,” he claimed, “and I think the remarks are completely out of touch”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey however argued that Mr Harris had “hit the nail on the head” with his comments.

“I’m speaking from the concept of a 24-year-old and a 21-year-old in my house,” Alderman Hussey concluded. “And his comments are absolutely on the mark.”

Mr Harris made his comments while addressing the latest meeting of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly in Wicklow on April 15.

Stating that there was a challenge for everyone to build relationships across the island and speaking about the generations born since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement back in 1998, he added: “Probably people of my generation are familiar now with London, and Berlin, and Paris than they might be with Belfast or Derry.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Meanwhile Donegal Senator and Fianna Fáil candidate in the European Election, Niall Blaney has described Mr Harris’ remarks as insulting and claimed the Fine Gael leader should pay more attention to Derry and Belfast than to Paris and Berlin.

Senator Blaney said: “I couldn’t believe the Taoiseach actually said this. He owes an apology to Derry and Belfast with an admission that he got it badly wrong.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter.