‘No-show Taoiseach’: Harris lambasted for being ‘as láthair’ on first full day in office

Government Chief Whip says Fine Gael leader unavailable because of phone calls to British, Northern Ireland and Ukrainian leaders

The Opposition has trenchantly criticised Taoiseach Simon Harris for his failure to attend the Dáil on his first full day in office, accusing him of being a “no-show”.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mr Harris’s last words in the Dáil on Tuesday had been “let’s get to work”. But “in his first day on the job he’s a no show. He’s as láthair [absent].”

Government Chief Whip Hildegarde Naughton said that Mr Harris was unavailable to take Leaders’ Questions “because he’s speaking with the UK prime minister. He also has calls with the Northern Ireland First Minister, the Deputy First Minister, and also the president of Ukraine. Tomorrow, he is in Brussels as well as Warsaw and he will be back to take Leaders’ Questions next week.”

But Ms McDonald asked for clarification “that the Taoiseach is not with us because he has to take three phone calls, or four”. When Ms Naughton confirmed it was four calls the Sinn Féin leader said “that’s not acceptable.”


Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl intervened and said they could not get involved “in how many telephone calls somebody is making”. They had important parliamentary business to do. “Exactly,” shouted Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.

At the start of Dáil business Ms McDonald said there was a lot of work to do and the Government had a lot of questions to answer “and yet the Taoiseach hasn’t shown up. This is wholly unacceptable” and it showed his contempt for the Dáil.

She said Government TDs “waxed lyrical yesterday about the incoming Taoiseach and he was apparently going to do in 10 months what you failed to do in 13 years. It was all about moving mountains and getting straight to work. And today he has not shown up. That is an absolute disgrace.”

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said an extensive schedule of business was originally planned for this week but this had all been changed.

“It’s simply unacceptable that we have business not ordered properly and what looks if I may say somewhat like made up business over the next two days when there’s so much important work to be done.

“And indeed the new Taoiseach outlined a very ambitious programme of his own promises and commitments over the next barely over 11 months. We should be starting more quickly. We should be starting today.”

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said “I think it’s start as you mean to go on. I hope this is not going to be the way we are going to continue with the business.”

She said “we have a business committee that has become a facade” when “this is all dictated by Government”. The Kildare North TD noted that when there was a minority government “there was an awful lot of things achieved by that. This is this is not the way to start with a new Taoiseach, with a new regime”.

Rural Independent leader Mattie McGrath said it was a “farce. I think we are in Gubu [Gross, Unbelievable, Bizarre, Unprecedented] territory here.” He said the business was a shambles. The Government had got a complete dressing down from the public in the referendum because they were not listening to the people. “You’re not listening to us in the business committee or the members of this House and that’s an insult to democracy.”

Independent TD Thomas Pringle said the business committee “is a joke and a waste of time because the Government doesn’t have to pay any attention to it”. But when it suits the Government and it comes under pressure it says the committee decided and “unfortunately all of us in opposition go along with that to make it look like it’s important” when “it actually doesn’t mean anything at all”.

But the Ceann Comhairle, a former opposition whip, described Ms Naughton as “the best whip I have seen in my years here. And she continuously takes on board points that are raised by people on the Opposition and tries to work them into the business programme. So it is not the case that the business committee is a charade.”

But Ms McDonald said she was not raising the business committee. “I want to know where’s the Taoiseach? He said yesterday he was getting straight to work. He was moving mountains. There was no challenge too great.

“And we are here today. We’ve shown up to do our job.”

The Taoiseach is “now in post. We’ve had two weeks of a recess and he’s had plenty of time to prepare himself.”

The Government Chief Whip confirmed that Mr Harris was unavailable because he was making phone calls to the British, Northern Ireland and Ukrainian leaders but the Sinn Féin leader said it was unacceptable that he was absent because he had four phone calls to make.

Shortly after the Dáil row Ms McDonald posted a video on social media outside Leinster House about Mr Harris’s absence.

The Taoiseach then posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, sitting at his desk in Government buildings and discussing his first day in office.

The Opposition objected to the Order of Business but the Dáil voted by 75 to 59 to proceed on the basis of the new schedule.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times