Joe McHugh answering questions at Donegal GE2020 count
#Donegal #GE2020 – 5pm
It was an emphatic 'No' to coalition with Sinn Féin from former Education Minister Joe McHugh (Fine Gael).
Speaking to Donegal Live at the Aura count centre at the start of the 7th count Mr McHugh, who is in a fight for the fifth seat with Pat The Cope Gallagher (Fianna Fáil), said he hoped to retain his seat with the help of running mate Martin Harley's transfers.
Joe McHugh said the [move away from Fine Gael] hadn't just happened during the election campaign.
He added: “We came into government in 2016, a very unusual set up, confidence and supply. People were predicting it would last six weeks, six months and then all of a sudden we got four budgets.
“During that time we had a very loud voice coming from opposition, coming from the left, coming from independents, coming from Sinn Fein, coming from Fianna Fáil. I remember my time as Chief Whip, every week we had upwards of two private members business pointing out where we were failing and what they could do better. So it is a culmination of four years of the opposition saying 'we can do it better. We have better solutions.' Now the electorate has backed up that voice and it is up to Sinn Féin and the left to come up with some way forward here because they have been given a massive endorsement.
“Even last night, when you consider Pearse Doherty's surplus, Thomas Pringle got nearly 3,000 votes. We can be hurlers on the ditch. I spent a long time in opposition but at all times, in 2007 and in 2011, we wanted to go into government. There is a weakness there at the moment with a very, very loud voice and that weakness is this ability to step over the line and take up the reigns and go into government and that is difficult.”
Mr McHugh described Leo Varadkar's leadership as “excellent.”
He continued: “Leo Varadkar has been more than helpful to me on a number of issues. I think back to a number of years ago and the Malin Head Coastguard Station was under threat of closure. Leo drove to Malin Head and Malin Head Coastguard Station is still there.
“The Mica issue was really, really important for Inishowen, Letterkenny and parts of Milford. I asked Leo if he would come to Donegal and visit one of the families. And he did that, he came to Trillick, a family home and I remember him coming out of that house saying, 'Look, Joe, this is very straight forward. We have to do this. 504 days later Mary Lou McDonald arrived in Inishowen to look at one of the mica houses. That's the facts and the type of person Leo Varadkar is. He wants to inform himself. He has compassion. He's got massive empathy. When we meet as a group, will be full square behind Leo Varadkar.
“I am 100 per cent behind Leo Varadkar. We have mica in law. We wouldn't have a national development plan with the Bonagee Link and the Lifford – Letterkenny road included for the first time in the history of the state. All of those things, including getting Letterkenny City Status are thanks to Leo Varadkar.
“He knows Donegal. He was locum up in Carndonagh. He has a massive relationship with the north west. He knows it has been neglected. His leadership over the past two and a half years, it's not long enough to fix everything but he has made a great stab at it and he is a good friend to Donegal,” said Joe McHugh.
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