Irish parliament backs Simon Harris to become youngest Taoiseach

Wednesday, Apr 10, 2024


DUBLIN: Ireland’s Dail parliament has backed the nomination of Fine Gael leader Simon Harris as the country’s new Taoiseach.

TDs voted 88 to 69 in support of Mr Harris, who will now travel to the official residence of President Michael D Higgins where his appointment as the country’s youngest premier will be confirmed.

The president will sign the Warrant of Appointment and hand the Seal of the Taoiseach and the Seal of Government to Mr Harris at a ceremony at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

Mr Harris, a 37-year-old father-of-two, will become Ireland’s 15th Taoiseach after the surprise resignation of Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael leader three weeks ago.

Mr Varadkar formally resigned at an audience with Mr Higgins on Monday evening, paving the way for Mr Harris’s election on Tuesday. The Wicklow TD’s wife Caoimhe and young children Saoirse and Cillian were in the public gallery of the Dail for the proceedings, as were his parents and brother and sister.

Mr Harris will assume the lead of the Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party three party coalition government with less than a year to run before a general election must be called.Government TDs rose to applaud as the outcome of the vote was announced.

Addressing the Dail, Mr Harris said: “I do accept this nomination to serve as Taoiseach and I commit to doing everything that I can to honour the trust that you have placed in me today.” In the wake of Mr Varadkar’s resignation, Mr Harris emerged as the only contender to replace him as Fine Gael leader. He has pledged to focus on more “bread and butter” issues and has repeatedly mentioned supporting small businesses facing high costs, helping farmers and focusing on crime and security.

Mr Harris has also made clear he intends for the coalition between Civil War-era rivals Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, as well as the Greens, to run its full term to March 2025.

Mr Harris’s first task as Taoiseach will be handling a reshuffle of Fine Gael ministers in the administration, including which of his colleagues replaces him as Minister for Further and Higher Education.

During the nomination proceedings, Opposition TDs repeatedly called for an immediate general election, as they criticised the nomination of a new taoiseach without first going to the electorate.

The Dail sitting began with an address by former taoiseach Mr Varadkar, who said his work in politics had been the “most fulfilling and rewarding time” of his life.“But today is the beginning of a new era for my party, a new chapter in my life and a new phase for this coalition Government,” he added.

Fine Gael deputy leader and social protection minister Heather Humphreys proposed Mr Harris as Taoiseach, with party colleague and minister of state Peter Burke seconding him. Fianna Fail leader and deputy premier Micheal Martin spoke in support of Mr Harris’s nomination, as did Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

“It’s a special day for you and I look forward to a constructive and effective co-operation in the time ahead,” Mr Martin told the incoming taoiseach.

Mr Ryan has said he was committed to continuing the coalition deal until the end of the mandate, and rejected calls for an election.“I hear others saying we have to have an election now: I fundamentally disagree because there is work to be done that we can deliver,” he said.

Mary Lou McDonald, the leader of main opposition party Sinn Fein, heavily criticised Mr Harris’s record in government as she restated her demand for a general election. “Another Fine Gael taoiseach is the last thing the people need. We need a change of leadership, we need a change of government,” she said.She accused the Government of trying to present a narrative that “dresses up failure as progress”.

“It’s your century-old cosy club, circling the wagons once again to cling to power at all costs,” she said. “I believe that people of Ireland deserve so much better.” Ms McDonald added: “If you really believe that your Government has the support of the people, then you should go before the people and get that mandate.”