McHugh rejects Taoiseach’s repeated efforts to mend Fine Gael rift

EFFORTS to bring Donegal TD Joe McHugh back into the Fine Gael ranks have intensified under the new leadership of Taoiseach Simon Harris, who has made direct appeals both before and after his recent ascension to the role.

Deputy McHugh, a former minister and Government Chief Whip, lost the Fine Gael party whip over his stance on the Mica crisis but is still being actively courted to return to the party fold.

He took a principled stand during the Mica crisis, siding with affected homeowners demanding more substantial government support. His decision to vote against the party line led to his losing the Fine Gael whip, marking a significant moment in his political career.


However, the political landscape is shifting once again. Harris, who succeeded Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach, has made it clear that he values McHugh’s experience and commitment to his constituents.

In private conversations, Harris has pushed the importance of unity within Fine Gael, particularly as the party navigates complex challenges ahead of a General Election.

“Obviously they wanted me in the fold for the local elections,” explained Deputy McHugh.

“I couldn’t get involved in those elections because I would end up being hypocritical as there were Mica candidates standing.”

McHugh was also approached by former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who expressed similar hopes of reconciliation between the Donegal TD and Fine Gael.

“It’s not a place I want to be, but from a principled right and wrong thing, I will stand by my constituents,” said Deputy McHugh.

“I’ve been asked recently by Simon Harris to come back into Fine Gael, but until something substantial is done on the current concrete crisis scheme, I will be staying outside the fold.


“Whether it’s transfer eligibility, to do with the foundations, whether it’s to do with changing the cap, or to do with downsizing,” he said.

The Mica crisis, which involves defective building blocks leading to structural issues in thousands of homes, has been a particularly sensitive issue in Donegal.

McHugh’s advocacy for the affected homeowners earned him significant local support, but has also placed him at odds with the party leadership.

“When you’re a minister you have a team around you and that’s the inner sanctum. So, I don’t know what’s going on within Charlie’s inner team,” noted McHugh, referring to current Donegal minister Charlie McConalogue.

“I would say to Charlie, even at the 11th hour or however long this government lasts, whether it’s the last quarter of this year or first quarter of next year, there still is time to make changes.”

As the discussions continue, political analysts suggest that McHugh’s return to Fine Gael could bolster the party’s standing in Donegal given his considerable experience.

Perhaps the ongoing dialogue between McHugh and the party leadership signals a potential thawing of relations and a strategic move to consolidate party unity ahead of the next General Election.

“The ballot boxes have shown in Donegal that this is an issue that goes beyond those directly affected. This is reflective of Donegal solidarity,” said Deputy McHugh.

“Charlie’s knows politics. He’s a minister at the Cabinet table and no doubt he’ll be taking that message back,” he added.

The Carrigart man has once again confirmed that he will not be standing in the next General Election. However, it’s clear that the Fine Gael leadership want his support and expertise with respect to getting a different candidate elected for the party in Donegal.

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