Simon Harris to be next Taoiseach
Simon Harris to be next Taoiseach


Simon Harris, a 37-year-old career politician, has replaced Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader and appears set to be elected Taoiseach when the Dáil returns on April 9th.

He was the only person to put their name forward as the deadline for nominations passed at 1pm today. He will be officially announced after 3pm at a party European election event in Athlone.

Following the unexpected announcement that his predecessor Leo Varadkar would be stepping down from both posts, his potential rivals – Simon Coveney, Helen McEntee, Paschal Donohoe and Heather Humphreys – all announced they would not be contesting the leadership race.

While there had been speculation that Mr Harris’s advance has been a planned coronation, there were also suggestions he has been ‘set up to fail’ amid low poll numbers for Fine Gael and a torrent of departures from the party ahead of forthcoming elections.

There have long been questions over Harris’s competence and ability to engage with major issues.

He was Minister for Health during the Covid-19 crisis, when he infamously claimed there had been 18 previous versions of the disease – the disease is named after the year it was discovered.

His decision to allow the virus take hold in Ireland by failing to implement strict controls at Irish airports and seaports has also been blamed for leaving the country defenceless against the early stages of the disease, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Fine Gael’s decision to call an election to avoid a vote of no confidence in the then Minister in January 2020 resulted in the current coalition government with Fianna Fail and the Green Party, which Harris is now set to lead.

He has most recently served as Minister for Higher Education, where he has been criticised for failing to end scandals over the misappropriation of public funds by university bosses.

Speaking on Irish television last week, Mr Harris said he wanted to bring energy and vigour to the role. “I want to really reconnect with our party right across the country. I want to get us back to core principles and deliver on the issues that matter to people in their daily lives.

“I want to be the next leader of Fine Gael. I’m ready to step up and I’m ready to serve.”

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