Ireland

Simon Harris tipped to become Taoiseach after other ministers decide not to run

Further and Higher Education Minister Simon Harris could be the only candidate nominated to replace Leo Varadkar as leader of Fine Gael.

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris could become the next taoiseach
Cabinet meeting Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris could become the next taoiseach (Brian Lawless/PA)

Dublin government minister Simon Harris could be set for a clear run at becoming the next Taoiseach after a series of senior colleagues said they did not intend to run for the Fine Gael leadership.

Further and Higher Education Minister Mr Harris has not yet formally declared his intention to succeed Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, but he is now red hot favourite for the roles.

All other senior Fine Gael cabinet ministers have now ruled themselves out of contention.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris
Irish Budget 2024 Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris

Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, Justice Minister Helen McEntee, Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys and Enterprise Minister and Fine Gael deputy leader Simon Coveney have all said they will not seek a nomination for the leadership.

Ms Humphrey and Ms McEntee are also among a wave of Fine Gael members to have come out publicly in support of Mr Harris.

Minister of State Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, who had been touted as a possible outside in any race for the leadership, has also ruled herself out and declared support for Mr Harris.

If appointed Fine Gael leader, Mr Harris would be formally elected as Taoiseach in the Dáil in April following the Easter recess.

He would become the country’s youngest ever premier at the age of 37.

In an emotional address outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar announced he would step down as premier when a successor is confirmed.

He also quit as leader of the Fine Gael party with immediate effect but made clear he does not intend to stand down as a TD for Dublin West in the Dáil.

Mr Varadkar said his tenure as the Republic’s leader had been “the most fulfilling time” of his life but said he no longer felt he was the best person for the job.

The announcement came after a turbulent number of weeks for the Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Green Party three party coalition.

Earlier this month, it was resoundingly beaten in two referendums on changes ministers had proposed to the Irish constitution.

Mr Varadkar’s resignation has prompted calls from Sinn Féin and other opposition parties in the Dáil for a general election.