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Next Fine Gael Leader Odds: Harris Favourite After Varadkar Quits As Taoiseach

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Joe Short
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Next Fine Gael Leader Odds: Harris Favourite After Varadkar Quits As Taoiseach

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Betting sites are scrambling to set their odds on the next Irish Taoiseach after Leo Varadkar announced he is stepping away from the role.

Mr Varadkar will also cease leading Fine Gael after seven years in the post.

I will resign as Fine Gael leader today (Wednesday, March 20) and as Taoiseach as soon as my successor is found,” he said.

Fine Gael are currently trailing Sinn Fein by about eight points in the polls. Their 20% rating has barely shifted over the past year.


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Yet what appears to have done for Mr Varadkar was the unsuccessful dual referendum held on International Women’s Day.

Voters went against the family referendum by two-thirds and the care referendum by 74%. 

Mr Varadkar had put a lot of political capital into the votes but came out chastened by the results.

Irish General Election – Most Seats Odds

Betting on who will replace Mr Varadkar has already opened. 

There are a handful of frontrunners who will have their eye not just on the party leadership but on the Taoiseach post.

Mr Varadkar’s decision will not lead to a snap Irish general election, so his replacement will get to run Ireland without the vote of the people.

That’s a big carrot for whoever takes the role, and the jostling could well get heated in the coming days and weeks.

Here, we look at the main contenders to lead Fine Gael.

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Simon Harris

Higher education minister Simon Harris is the favourite to replace Mr Varadkar. 

The 37-year-old has been in the spotlight recently when working on construction initiatives and is well placed within the party.

The TD for Wicklow has worked across a range of front bench positions and knows the party inside out, despite his young age.

Leading Fine Gael may be too soon for Mr Harris but that hasn’t stopped political betting sites slashing his odds. 

He is now 2/5 to succeed Mr Varadkar, a price that carries a 71.4% probability.


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Simon Coveney 

Harris’ biggest challenger for the party leadership will likely be Simon Coveney. The deputy leader has many more years in office but with that comes baggage.

Fine Gael need a figure who is forward thinking and offers a fresh face for the next election. 

There are concerns Mr Coveney, at 51, would be a step backwards.

Saying that, the Cork South-Central TD has the experience to lead the party and the country with European and local elections looming. 

He is 9/4 with betting apps to be the next man in charge of the party.

Helen McEntee 

A decent outside pick, Helen McEntee has been the Meath East TD since 2013 and took over from Mr Harris as justice minister in 2023. 

Regularly in the political spotlight, Ms McEntee recently had to contend with a false bomb threat at her home. 

She faced criticism from Sinn Fein during the Dublin riots last year but kept her job. Almost half of voters think she performed poorly over the incidents.

At 5/1 with Ladbrokes, odds makers evidently think there is value in Ms McEntee. Yet she may need to play some strong politics to get approval from other parties.


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Paschal Donohoe

If Fine Gael is to campaign at the next election on economic policies, then Paschal Donohoe could be their best shot. 

The public expenditure minister knows his brief when it comes to sums and has been at the heart of the party – and government – for years.

The 49-year-old is not the sexiest of options for Fine Gael, but he is steady. 

What’s more, his financial background means he may be open to international posts in the future if he can’t ascend to the party leadership now. New betting sites have him at 6/1 for now.

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill has quickly ascended to the top ranks of Fine Gael, much to the chagrin of other parties. 

The 43-year-old is yet to have a front bench ministerial role but polls very well across the party.

She speaks her mind and is “prepared to live on the edge”. She’s not immune to dishing out criticism of her own party as much as others.

Ms MacNeill is perhaps not yet ready for the party leadership and the job of Taoiseach. 

However, if she gathers media interest over the coming weeks then her odds of 12/1 will drop.

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How Fine Gael Elects A Leader

Speculation is mounting over who will now replace Mr Varadkar. The process is outlined in Rule 49 of the Fine Gael Constitution and Rules.

Candidates must be members of Dáil Éireann and need to carry support from 10% of the parliamentary party to run. That means a minimum 10 Fine Gael TDs or Senators.

The party leader is then elected via the Electoral College system. This consists of:

• Parliamentary Party (TDs, Senators and MEPs) – 65%
• Public representatives (councillors) – 25%
• Other party members – 10%

TDs, Senators and MEPs will cast their votes at a parliamentary party meeting, while others will vote on the same day across the country.

It is not yet known when the vote will be held, but a new leader will be in place before the Fine Gael Ard Fheis on April 6.

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Joe Short


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