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New Prime Minister after “political earthquake” in the country

Simon Harris is expected to become Ireland’s next prime minister after the ruling Fine Gael party named him its leader on Sunday following an uncontested election.

The 37-year-old said it was the “absolute honor of my life” to be named party leader and his ascension to the country’s top job is expected to be confirmed when the Irish Parliament returns from recess early next month.

He will succeed Leo Varadkar, who announced his resignation on Wednesday in what experts described as a “political earthquake” in the EU member state.

“After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for the job,” Varadkar, 45, said.

“My reasons for resigning are personal and political, but above all political,” he added, without elaborating.

Within hours, Harris had secured the support of a majority of Fine Gael party colleagues for a leadership bid, prompting his potential rivals to exclude themselves.

With nominations closing at 1pm GMT on Sunday and no challengers emerging, party official Willie Geraght declared Harris the winner a few hours later at a convention in Athlone, west of Dublin.

Party deputy leader Simon Coveney said the new leader and future prime minister was a “truly charismatic” politician who was “ideally positioned” to revive the fortunes of his struggling party.

At his coronation, Harris told center-right party members that he would repay their faith with “hard work, with blood, sweat and tears, day after day, with responsibility, with humility and with civility.” Setting out his priorities, Harris insisted Fine Gael “stands for law and order” and told members, to loud cheers, that he wanted to “take our flag back” from the nationalists.

He also said that he would pursue a “more planned and sustainable” immigration policy and “combat the dangers of populism” amid rising tensions over the issue.

Internationally, he called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and condemned Russia’s “terrible illegal invasion of Ukraine.”

Impressive to-do list

With Fine Gael and its governing coalition partners – the centre-right Fianna Fail and the Greens – forming a majority in the Dail (Irish Parliament), Harris will be formally elected prime minister on April 9, when the Dail returns.

Harris becomes Ireland’s youngest ever “Taoiseach” (pronounced “tee-shock” – a Gaelic word meaning “chief” or “leader”), beating Varadkar, who was 38 when he took over in 2017.

Harris’ dramatic rise to Taoiseach caps a meteoric political career.

He was born in 1986 and grew up in a small town near Dublin, where he had his first taste of politics when he campaigned for disability support for his autistic brother.

He joined Fine Gael’s youth wing at the age of 16, was elected to Parliament in 2011 as a 24-year-old, and was appointed Health Minister in 2016, aged just 29.

“In many ways my career has been a bit strange… life came at me much faster than I expected,” he told Hot Press magazine in a 2022 interview.

“He has enormous energy and great ambition,” a Fine Gael colleague told the Irish Times newspaper this week.

The new Taoiseach will face a daunting to-do list that includes tackling housing and homelessness crises as criticism mounts of government policy towards asylum seekers.

Known for his deft communication and social media skills, Harris will also be desperate to energize his struggling party, which is in third place in polls ahead of key elections.

Ireland votes in both local and European parliaments on June 7, while the next general election must take place by March 2025.

Fine Gael plunged to third place in the last general election in 2020, well behind the largest party, left-wing nationalist Sinn Féin – the former political wing of the paramilitary IRA – which is still leading in polls.

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