‘I'M IN this to win it', said Wicklow’s European Elections candidate Simon Harris last Sunday night, as he denied rumours that he had secured a deal with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny for a significant ‘consolation prize’ if things don’t go his way.
Speaking at the launch of his campaign in the Arklow Bay Hotel, Deputy Harris said, ‘There's no truth in that. I'm running because I want to win. I'm in this to win it. There's no back room deal.'
There has been mounting speculation that Harris has been promised a junior ministry in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle if he fails to win a seat in Europe, and a junior ministry for his party colleague Andrew Doyle should he successfully take a seat.
Despite his denial, there's no escaping the fact that Harris, the youngest TD in the Dáil, has the firm backing of Enda Kenny.
An Taoiseach, fresh off the plane from Rome on Sunday after meet- ing with Pope Francis during the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul XXII, immediately headed to the Arklow Bay for the launch of the Harris campaign.
Indeed the launch was attended by Fine Gael's Andrew Doyle of Wicklow, Paul Kehoe and Liam Twomey from Wexford, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, MEP Mairead McGuinness, Mary Mitchell O'Connor of Dublin, Carlow's Pat Derring, Kilkenny's John Paul Phelan and Laois/Offaly's Charlie Flanagan as well as Senator Michael D'Arcy of Wexford.
Mr Kenny said how Deputy Harris had come to him saying he was willing to stand in the European elections for the party. ‘What we what is a young voice to speak for future generations', he said. ‘Simon will make an outstanding MEP,’ he said.
In his own speech, Deputy Harris said, ‘The last few years have been difficult,' but said, ‘we knew they were going to be.' He said Fine Gael weren't going to buy the electorate with an ‘extra €5 in your children's allowance'. Harris added he will be a fresh voice in the European Parliament. He said that his experience as a leading member of the Public Accounts Committee and as a disability advocate shows that he has the qualities necessary to be a new kind of MEP.