Road to EU 2024

Harris Set to Make History and Become Ireland’s Youngest PM

March 2024
By Maximilian Powell

Simon Harris stepped into the role of Ireland’s prime minister-in-waiting on Sunday 24 March, following his uncontested election to succeed Leo Varadkar as the leader of the governing Fine Gael (EPP) party.

At just 37 years old, Harris, a well-known minister for his role as Health Minister during the initial response to COVID-19, is set to make history as Ireland’s youngest-ever prime minister. The parliament is scheduled to convene on 9 April, where Harris is anticipated to secure the position with the backing of Fine Gael’s coalition partners, Fianna Fáil (Renew) and the Green Party (Greens).

Despite calls from the opposition for an early election, Harris will likely have one year to salvage his party’s prospects ahead of parliamentary elections, with opinion polls consistently favouring the nationalist Sinn Féin, aligned with the European Left in the European Parliament, to lead the next government.

Varadkar’s unexpected announcement of his departure was perceived as a political bombshell, catching even his closest allies off guard. Citing both personal and political reasons, he stated that Fine Gael’s prospects for re-election would be enhanced under new leadership.

Harris, widely regarded as one of Ireland’s most visible government ministers and a strong media performer, has earned the nickname “TikTok Taoiseach” (Irish for prime minister) due to his active engagement on social media platforms. Reflecting on his journey into politics, Harris has shared how his advocacy stemmed from his dissatisfaction as a passionate and opinionated teenager, witnessing the lack of support for his autistic brother in the education system.

Despite Harris’s portrayal of himself as an “accidental politician,” insiders in Dublin assert that there is nothing accidental about Harris’s ascent through the Irish political ranks. Many believe he has meticulously plotted his path to Taoiseach for years, as evidenced by the swift pace at which he garnered nominations from his party colleagues.

Noted for his adept communication skills and his knack for steering clear of crises, only time will tell how the TikTok Taoiseach will navigate the challenges of the spotlight and lead effectively.