Simon Harris: Ireland’s New Prime Minister

Simon Harris is an Irish politician who is the current favourite to become Ireland’s next Prime Minister (Taoiseach) following the surprise resignation of Leo Varadkar. Harris, 37, is currently the Minister for Further and Higher Education and has been a member of the Fine Gael party since his youth.

Early Life and Education

Harris was born in Wicklow, Ireland, in 1986. He attended Dublin Institute of Technology to study journalism but left before completing his degree to pursue a career in politics.

Political Career

  • Harris joined the Fine Gael party at a young age and became involved in its youth wing.
  • In 2011, at the age of 24, he was elected to the Dáil Éireann (Irish parliament) as a TD (Teachta Dála) for Wicklow, becoming the youngest member of the Dáil at the time.
  • From 2014 to 2016, Harris served as a junior minister in the Department of Finance.
  • In 2016, he was appointed Minister for Health, a position he held until mid-2020.
  • As Health Minister, Harris played a key role in Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and was widely praised for his handling of the crisis.
  • In 2020, he was appointed Minister for Further and Higher Education.

Leadership Contest

Following Leo Varadkar’s unexpected resignation as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach on March 22, 2024, Harris quickly emerged as the frontrunner to succeed him. Within hours of nominations opening, Harris had secured the backing of nearly half of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.
Several high-profile potential rivals, including Simon Coveney (Minister for Enterprise), Helen McEntee (Minister for Justice), Paschal Donohoe (Minister for Public Expenditure), and Heather Humphreys (Minister for Social Protection), ruled themselves out of the race and endorsed Harris.

Challenges Ahead

If elected, Harris will become Ireland’s youngest-ever Taoiseach. He will face the challenge of leading Fine Gael into the next general election, which must be held by early 2025. The party currently trails the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, in opinion polls.
Harris will also need to navigate the complexities of Ireland’s coalition government, which includes Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Green Party. The coalition was formed in 2020 under a novel rotation agreement between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, the two centre-right parties that have historically dominated Irish politics.

Trivia

  • Harris is known for his active presence on social media, particularly TikTok, where he has 92,000 followers and 1.8 million likes on his videos.
  • He is considered a skilled communicator and played a leading role in the successful 2018 referendum campaign to legalise abortion in Ireland.
  • If elected, Harris will surpass Leo Varadkar, who was 38 when he first became Taoiseach in 2017, as Ireland’s youngest-ever Prime Minister.

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