Ireland: Simon Harris named next Prime Minister

Simon Harris was elected leader of the Irish center-right Fine Gael party on Sunday, which will allow the 37-year-old to become Ireland’s new Prime Minister and the youngest leader in the history of the country. country. “It is the honor of my life to lead this great party,” said Simon Harris, who was the only candidate in this internal election. It was triggered by the surprise resignation of Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Wednesday, a few weeks before the European elections and a year before the scheduled date of the legislative elections.

The youngest taoiseach

With Fine Gael and its government coalition partners Fianna Fail and the Green Party forming a majority in the Irish parliament, Simon Harris could become, on April 9 when parliament resumes, the Prime Minister of Ireland, a member country of the EU, which has five million inhabitants. Simon Harris will thus be the youngest “taoiseach” (pronounced “tee-shock” – a Gaelic word for “chief” or “leader”) in the history of Ireland. The victory of Simon Harris, who was previously Minister for Further Education, was announced at a party convention in Athlone, west of Dublin.

The spectacular accession of Simon Harris to the post of leader of Fine Gael and Prime Minister crowns a dazzling political career. Born in 1986, he grew up in a small town near Dublin. He became interested in politics while campaigning for disability services for his autistic brother. He joined Fine Gael’s youth wing at the age of 16, was elected to parliament at the age of 24 in 2011 and was appointed Minister of Health in 2016, aged just 29.

“Energy and renewal”

In his first speech as party leader, Simon Harris said it was “the time for Fine Gael to renew its commitment to the people”. “There is a lot to do in the coming months,” he said. “I will bring energy and renewal to this party,” he said. He promised to support businesses, “especially small businesses” and “make work pay.” He said he was “proudly pro-European”. On the subject of immigration, he promised to “move to a more planned and sustainable model, to a fair and firm system” as criticism grows louder against the government’s policy on asylum seekers. .

Simon Harris will have to tackle difficult subjects like the housing crisis and the homeless crisis. He will also have to find new support for his party, which is in third position in the polls. Ireland will vote on June 7 for local and European elections. The next general election is due to take place by March 2025. Fine Gael fell to third place in the last general election in 2020, far behind the largest party, left-nationalist Sinn Fein, the former political wing of the IRA (the Irish Republican Army), which still leads the polls.

On Wednesday, Leo Varadkar, aged 45, resigned saying he was “no longer the best person for this position”. He cited “political and personal reasons”. Leo Varadkar had been head of government since December 2022. A first stint in power in 2017 made this mixed-race and gay doctor the youngest Prime Minister of a traditionally conservative Ireland, at the age of 38.

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