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Simon Harris to head Fine Gael later


Mr Harris, currently serving as Ireland's minister for further and higher education, emerged as the sole candidate vying for the party leadership.


He is poised to succeed Leo Varadkar, who recently revealed his decision to step down as party leader and Taoiseach (Irish prime minister).

The nominations, originally scheduled to close on Monday, were unexpectedly moved up by 24 hours.


A memo was circulated among Fine Gael politicians on Friday, informing them that the party leader would be announced at the end of the Midlands North West European selection convention in Athlone on Sunday.


According to the statement, the returning officer will officially designate that individual as the party leader in the event of a single nomination.


Mr Harris has a favourable path to the top position, as other ministers seen as potential rivals have decided not to compete.


He emerged as the frontrunner, garnering support from numerous individuals even before nominations became available.


Ministers Helen McEntee, Paschal Donohoe, and Heather Humphreys supported Mr Harris.

During his statement on Friday, Mr. Harris expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the overwhelming support he has received recently.

What is the reason behind the leadership contest?


On Wednesday, Mr Varadkar made a surprising announcement, revealing his decision to step down as Fine Gael leader. He also stated that he would resign as Taoiseach once his successor was chosen.


He stated his resignation was due to personal and political factors, acknowledging that he no longer felt suitable for the position.


He categorically dismissed any speculation about hidden agendas or future employment opportunities, stating to the press in Brussels that there were no ulterior motives behind the decision.


With Mr Varadkar's resignation, a party leadership contest has been set in motion. As he leads the current coalition government in Dublin with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party, his successor is also anticipated to assume the role of Taoiseach.



Who is Simon Harris?


At 37, Mr Harris is poised to create a significant milestone by becoming Ireland's youngest Taoiseach. He will assume this esteemed position younger than his predecessor did in 2017.

He began his political career in the Dáil, the lower house of the Irish parliament, more than ten years ago when he was just 24 years old. Representing Wicklow, he became a TD or Member of Parliament.

Mr Harris has experienced a swift ascent within the party, achieving his first cabinet position as health minister in 2016, just five years after his initial rise through the party ranks.


As a political analyst, he was responsible for supervising the Republic of Ireland's decision to repeal its abortion ban and addressing the nation's cervical cancer screening scandal.


He was responsible for managing the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic until he was replaced with the formation of the new coalition government in 2020.


He has held various ministerial positions, including those related to education, research, innovation, science, and justice.

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