Taoiseach ‘will not alter behaviour’ following attacks on politicians

Simon Harris said toxicity in Irish politics cannot be allowed to ‘win’.

Taoiseach Simon Harris
Taoiseach Simon Harris (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Taoiseach has said he will not “allow” attacks on politicians to influence his behaviour, one day after an assassination attempt on his Slovakian counterpart.

Simon Harris made the comments after expressing “solidarity, thoughts, prayers and best wishes” to Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico and his family.

Mr Fico is described as being in a serious but stable condition after he was shot multiple times on Wednesday.

Reacting to the news on Thursday, Mr Harris said the shooting was a “shocking, vile and horrific” attack on the Slovakian prime minister.

The Fine Gael leader, who met Mr Fico in Brussels in the last few weeks, added: “But it was also an attack on democracy and the fundamental values that we share across the European Union.”

More generally, Mr Harris said he was “concerned” about attacks on politicians.

Referencing recent alleged assaults against Dublin councillors on the campaign trail, the Taoiseach added: “These attacks are despicable attacks on individuals but they’re also attacks on democracy.

“Because we live in one of the world’s longest-serving, most successful democracies and everybody has a right to put their name forward.

“And nobody has to do anything that should be chilling in relation to people’s participation in democracy.”

Asked by reporters if he had any concerns for his own safety, he replied: “I believe passionately in democracy. I have so much respect for anybody who puts their name on a ballot paper even if I fundamentally disagree with them or they fundamentally disagree with me – that’s the beauty of democracy.

“And I will always defend to the nth degree everybody’s participation in the democratic processes.

“We can’t allow this element of toxicity win, though, in Irish politics.

“We cant allow it to have that chilling effect where good people, young people, new people – whatever their political persuasion – are in any way put off participation in politics.

He added: “Look, I have huge confidence in the gardai, a huge gratitude for the work of the gardai and certainly I wouldn’t, allow it in any way alter my behaviour as a politician.

“Though, of course, I’m aware of the realities that we all face.”