Simon Harris becomes Ireland’s new prime minister

37 years old Simon Harris says ‘I want to bring new ideas and new energy and, I hope, a new empathy to public life’

DUBLIN  -  Simon Harris on Tuesday be­came Ireland’s new prime min­ister, replacing Leo Varadkar af­ter he abruptly quit last month citing personal and political rea­sons. Ireland’s parliament voted 88 to 69 in favour of Harris, 37, becoming “taoiseach” -- a Gaelic word for “chieftain” or “leader” pronounced “tee-shock”.

He was officially installed later at a ceremony with Presi­dent Michael D. Higgins, becom­ing the country’s youngest ever prime minister. 

The centre-right Fine Gael party -- part of a three-party governing co­alition -- se­lected Harris as its leader following an uncontested elec­tion after Varadkar announced his resignation. On accepting the nomination on Tuesday, Harris told parliament: “I com­mit to doing everything that I can to honour the trust that you have placed in me today. “This is very much a partnership gov­ernment and I intend to lead us in the spirit of unity, collabora­tion and mutual respect,” he said, watched on by his wife and two children. “I want to bring new ideas and new energy and, I hope, a new empathy to pub­lic life. Time is certainly short, and there’s a lot to do,” Harris added. Varadkar, who was in his second stint as prime minister and at 45 was one of Europe’s youngest leaders, said last month that he felt he was no longer the “best person” to lead the country. The outgoing lead­er, who himself was the young­est taoiseach when first elected in 2017, on Tuesday said that he “always knew” Harris would fill the top job. “This has perhaps come a little bit sooner than he might have planned or expect­ed. But I know he will rise to the occasion,” Varadkar said.

“He has the empathy, energy, experience, campaigning skills and political antenna to take us forward.” Harris’s crowning as prime minister caps a me­teoric political rise. He joined the youth branch of Fine Gael at the age of 16 and quickly rose through its ranks. A county councillor at the age of 22, he was elected to parliament in 2011 as a 24-year-old. At the time he was the youngest MP and was nicknamed “Baby of the Dail” (Irish parliament). He was appointed health minister in 2016 aged just 29 and higher education minister in 2020.

Even critics concede he is a talented communicator.

Harris’s prominence on social media, especially TikTok, has made him one of the most vis­ible politicians in Ireland. 

The new taoiseach faces a formidable to-do list, including tackling housing and homeless­ness crises, and criticism of gov­ernment policy on asylum seek­ers. One of his first jobs will be to choose his cabinet of minis­ters. When he was selected as party leader last month, Harris told members that he would re­pay their faith with “hard work, with blood, sweat and tears.

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