Thursday 20 June 2019

Leo Varadkar: I had a 'strange relationship' with Simon Harris

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has revealed he was under pressure to sack Health Minister Simon Harris after the Fine Gael leadership contest.

The comments from a soon-to-be published biography on the Taoiseach come as Fine Gael Cabinet ministers last week began to privately brief against Mr Harris over his handling of the health crisis.

In Leo Varadkar - A Very Modern Taoiseach, the Fine Gael leader says he had a "strange relationship" with Mr Harris before the leadership campaign and decided to keep him in Cabinet after an intervention from former Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald.

"A lot of my supporters wanted me to sack him and that would have freed up a seat around the table. I decided not to. Frances certainly spoke up for him and he is a capable guy," he says.

A source close to Mr Harris yesterday said the minister's relationship with the Taoiseach had "really strengthened" since the campaign.

The Taoiseach's comments follow a week of controversy for Mr Harris.

Cabinet ministers are also growing frustrated with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy over his failure to get a handle on the escalating homelessness crisis.

One senior Fine Gael minister said neither minister had "control of their departments" and both were failing to stand up to senior civil servants. "They are not ministers, they are just yes men to the civil service," the insider said.

Another Cabinet minister said the Taoiseach should promote "experience over youth" if he reshuffles his Cabinet before the next general election.

The minister added that "grumpy old men have a real role" to play in Government.

Sunday Independent

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