The Tánaiste has warned of dangerous times for the European Union and urged the electorate to counter the rise of the Brexit party by voting for pro-European candidates in tomorrow's European elections.
Simon Coveney made his comments today in Cork city while campaigning with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in support of Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune.
“I hope the best response Ireland can give to the Brexit party is to vote Fine Gael - a party that has worked night and day to protect Irish people and Irish interests through the Brexit negotiations,” he said.
“These are dangerous times in the European Union. We need to protect Irish interests and to make sure they are understood and protected in the context of any final agreements.
As we have seen a surge in support for the Brexit Party we need to see a response in Ireland to support parties that are pro-European.
The canvass was mounted just hours after Fine Gael was forced to ‘revise’ its division of the Ireland South constituency to bolster Ms Clune’s flagging campaign.
Letters issued in parts of the vast constituency by the party’s director of elections Regina Doherty asked voters in Limerick and Tipperary to give Ms Clune their number one votes in order to ensure Fine Gael retains its two seats in the European Parliament.
Following an early-morning canvass on Parnell Bridge, the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ms Clune toured the English Market, stopping off to sample oysters at O’Connell’s fish stall.
At the final press conference of the campaign, Mr Varadkar said given the predicted success of the Brexit party, it is important Ireland sends out a very clear message that the country is pro-European and wants to stay in the very heart of Europe, and that we are willing to send our best team to Europe.
“People who will work across boundaries, build coalitions and work in the European Parliament to make sure our case is heard as we enter the next phase of Brexit negotiations," he said.
And with the terms of office of President Juncker, President Tusk, and possibly Michel Barnier, coming to an end, he said Ireland will need people who know what they are doing to make “new alliances and new friends”.
Ms Clune described the Brexit party as a “destructive force” and advised “steady hands are needed at the tiller as Ireland enters the choppy waters” of the next phase of Brexit negotiations.
“We’ve seen what has happened in the UK over the last 48 hours with even more indecision and rancour,” she said. “This is what Nigel Farage is trying to achieve at EU level with his Brexiteers.
“When I see how Nigel Farage will be a strong force in the next parliament, now more than ever we need voices of experiences and those that are going to engage with Europe to compromise and make sure that Ireland’s interests are reflected in whatever future relationship the UK has with Europe.
“It’s a very important time for us. We’ve been steady for the last three years and we need more of that now to ensure Ireland’s voice is reflected in all the issues we will be negotiating in the next phase. It’s really important tomorrow that we send out the message that we are pro-European, that we want to stay at the heart of Europe."