Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Simon Harris becomes Ireland’s youngest prime minister at 37

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Simon Harris has become the youngest premier in Ireland’s history after meeting with President Michael D Higgins.

Earlier, Ireland’s Dail, parliament’s lower house, voted to approve the 37-year-old as their next taoiseach by 88 votes to 69.

Mr Harris’s appointment – which came after the shock resignation of Leo Varadkar last month – was confirmed during a ceremony with President Higgins at his official residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin.

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Simon Harris received the seal of office from President Higgins in Dublin. Pic: PA

Mr Varadkar, 45, tendered his official resignation to the president on Monday evening after saying his reasons for stepping down were “both personal and political”.

Father-of-two Mr Harris was the only candidate to put his name forward in the Fine Gael leadership contest.

Ireland’s 15th taoiseach will be heading a coalition government with his Fine Gael party, Fianna Fail and Eamon Ryan’s Green party.

Mr Harris, from Greystones in County Wicklow, will now be handling a reshuffle of Fine Gael ministers, including which of his colleagues replaces him as minister for further and higher education.

Read more:
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Newly elected Taoiseach Simon Harris, gestures as he leaves the Dail, in Dublin.
Pic: PA
Image:
Simon Harris gestures as he leaves the Dail in Dublin. Pic: PA

The Wicklow representative’s wife Caoimhe and young children Saoirse and Cillian were in the public gallery of the Dail, as were his parents Mary and Bart and brother Adam and sister Gemma.

Government TDs (members of parliament) rose to applaud as the outcome of the vote was announced, and later cheered and hugged Mr Harris as he emerged from the parliament building at Leinster House in central Dublin ahead of his trip to see the president.

Addressing the Dail before the ceremony at the Aras, Mr Harris said he hoped to lead a “partnership government” in a spirit of “unity, collaboration and mutual respect”.

He praised his predecessor, Mr Varadkar, for his “incredible service”, while also paying tribute to his family, including his wife, who he described as his “rock”.

Speaking of his leadership goals, Mr Harris pledged to address acute housing shortages in Ireland, describing the crisis as the “greatest societal and economic challenge of our generation”.

“Today, I recommit to moving mountains to help build more homes and drive more home ownership,” he said.

The former health minister also promised to deliver improvements in healthcare provision, oversee a “step change” in care for older people, and achieve “real and meaningful reform” for people with disabilities.

Newly elected Taoiseach Simon Harris leaves the Dail, in Dublin.
Pic: PA
Image:
Simon Harris leaves the Dail, in Dublin, after the vote to approve his leadership. Pic: PA

Before the vote, Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns told TDs her party would not be supporting the nomination as they believed a new government was needed to bring about change in Ireland.

She said: “We are facing serious challenges as a country, and in order to address them we need new ideas. For that we need a new government, so today the Social Democrats will not be supporting his nomination.”

Ms Cairns said “radical change” is needed to tackle crises in housing, health care, disability services, child care and climate action.

“The change that we need cannot be delivered by a taoiseach from the same party, with the same programme for government and the same policies,” she added.

“The issues we face and will continue to face will worsen until we elect a government with a fundamentally new approach.”

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