The new leader of Fine Gael, Simon Harris, has said that the party stands for helping farmers, not for lecturing them.

In his maiden speech as leader of the party on Saturday, Harris said Fine Gael stands for supporting the family farm.

"It stands not for lecturing farmers, but for helping them.

"For helping farmers to transition to meet the challenges of both food security and climate change.

“We believe in regional development. It’s essential. To people in rural Ireland let me say this to you: we have your back,” he said at the Fine Gael Midlands North West MEP selection convention on Saturday.


Harris said he wants to listen to the grassroots membership about where to take the country next and pledged to never lose touch with people in the party or across the country.

“I do believe with our partners in Fianna Fáil and the Greens that we now have a solid base on which we can once again meet challenging times with hope and determination.

“We have to acknowledge and couple economic strength with the courage to identify areas where we have come up short and to address them with renewed action and renewed focus,” he said.

The Wicklow native said he wants young people to believe in their future in Ireland. “We owe it to them, we need them and we must make this happen,” he said.

Strong economy

It is impossible for this party to emphasise how much a strong economy matters, he said.

“We know how vital macroeconomic stability is for our future economic and social wellbeing.

“But we also know and must never forget that an economy has to work for people, so that they feel that in their own household’s economy, so that they feel it on their farm, in their business, around their kitchen table and in the lives that they can see and hope for in the years ahead for their children,” he said.


“Fine Gael talks about security as one of our values and I think sometimes this is too narrowly interpreted by others.

“It doesn’t just mean security as a nation, it also means security for individuals and for families. It means the security a person or a family feels when they buy their own home.

“It means the security of care for people when they most need it. It means the security of a health service that delivers better health outcomes for us all. It means the security of our planets future and security on our streets.”

Harris said he will outline the direction forward for Fine Gael on these issues at the party’s Ard Fheis in Galway on 6 April.

MEP selection

Meanwhile, following the withdrawal of Louth’s Colm Markey from the race on Saturday, Meath's Nina Carberry and Mayo's Maria Walsh were confirmed as the two candidates on the party’s ticket for the Midlands North West constituency in the European elections this summer.