Simon Harris to become Ireland’s youngest prime minister

Harris will become taoiseach in April afrter Varadkar’s resignation

Irish prime minister simon harris Irish Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris speaks to the media during a press conference at the City North Hotel, Co Meath, Ireland | AP

Simon Harris is set to become Ireland's youngest prime minister after nominations closed for the leadership of the governing Fine Gael party with no other candidates coming forward.

The leadership has been vacant since taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced his surprise resignation citing personal and political reasons last week.

Harris, 37, the higher education minister, was the only candidate when nominations closed on Sunday noon. However, he will not become the taoiseach until April 9 when the Irish parliament resumes after its Easter break.

He will outline his leadership priorities on Sunday at a selection convention in Athlone, County Westmeath, to choose party candidates for the European parliament elections in June.

Harris is best known for his efforts during the initial response of Covid-19.

Heather Humphreys, the social protection minister who is from a rural border constituency, is expected to be named as deputy leader of the party.

As the parliamentary elections are nearing, Harris will have no more than a year to save the coalition from defeat.. Polls for the last three years have put Sinn Fein, a left-wing party that backs unification with Northern Ireland, a British province, as the favourite to head the next government.

However, two more polls on Sunday confirmed a recent trend of support for Sinn Fein dropping off highs of 12-18 months ago.

Harris has spoken in recent days of how he became involved in politics as an "opinionated, moody teenager" annoyed at the lack of educational supports for his autistic brother. He is one of Ireland's most visible government ministers and a strong media performer. His keen social media presence led one opponent in parliament to dub Harris the "TikTok taoiseach" (Irish for prime minister).


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