Sunday 25 June 2017

Minister Charlie Flanagan dismisses WhatsApp message about Simon Harris wanting out of Health as 'banter'

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan (pictured) told the group that Simon Harris was being encouraged to run for the leadership by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan (pictured) told the group that Simon Harris was being encouraged to run for the leadership by Tánaiste and Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Minister Charlie Flanagan has described his WhatsApp message suggesting Simon Harris wanted to leave the Health Department as "jovial Sunday afternoon banter".

In the bizarre intervention, Mr Flanagan took to a Fine Gael WhatsApp group to suggest that Mr Harris may make a bid for the Fine Gael leadership.

He said: "He hasn't announced yet but Frances is encouraging him. He wants out of Health," Mr Flanagan posted in the group of dozens of TDs and senators.

Mr Harris has rejected suggestions he wants to leave the post.

Mr Flanagan responded to questions on the matter as he arrived at the Department of Foreign Affairs this afternoon.

"It was a joke which should be taken as that. It was jovial Sunday afternoon banter and I regret that its been taken so seriously," he said.

Mr Flanagan added: "He's a great minister for health".

With Taoiseach Enda Kenny set to address Fine Gael about his future on Wednesday night, possible leadership contenders are being asked about whether or not they'll enter a contest to succeed him.

Speaking on Midlands 103, Mr Harris has refused to rule himself out, as has Education Minister Richard Bruton, who was speaking to reporters after an event in Dublin.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald was asked if she'd like to succeed Mr Kenny and also didn't rule out a tilt at the leadership.

She replied: "The Taoiseach has said that he'll be speaking to the parliamentary party on Wednesday. It's very important that we wait and hear what the Taoiseach has to say". She said she will be considering her own position on whether or not she'll make a bid for the leadership after Mr Kenny has made his remarks.

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