Simon Harris to become Taoiseach following Leo Varadkar’s resignation

The new Fine Gael leader is set to become Taoiseach on April 9, when the Dáil resumes after the two-week Easter break.

Simon Harris, who is set to become Taoiseach in April, in a room with other people speaking to someone off camera.
Image: Via Shutterstock - Simon Roughneen

Following Leo Varadkar’s sudden resignation last week, Irish Higher Education Minister Simon Harris has been confirmed as the new leader of the ruling political party Fine Gael and is set to become Taoiseach in April. Aged 37, Harris will be the youngest head of government in the Republic of Ireland’s history.

The leadership of Fine Gael became vacant on March 20, after Leo Varadkar tendered his resignation. Varadkar, who was Ireland’s first openly gay head of government, announced the move saying that he was “proud that we’ve made the country a more equal and modern place”.

After his resignation, Minister Harris was the only candidate to seek the party leadership when nominations closed at 1pm on Sunday, March 24. While Simon Harris has now been confirmed as the new Fine Gael leader, he won’t become Taoiseach until April 9, when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break.

Known for his strong social media presence, Harris has been described by colleagues as “a great communicator” as well as having a “vision for Ireland that is about equality of opportunity”.

He was first elected to the Dáil in 2011, when he was only 24 years old, and was appointed to the top junior ministerial position, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, in 2014. The following year, he supported Ireland’s historic marriage equality referendum, which passed on May 22, 2015.

Harris later landed his first cabinet role in 2016, becoming Health Minister. In 2018, he oversaw and supported the referendum to repeal Ireland’s abortion ban. He was also Health Minister during the country’s cervical cancer screening scandal and oversaw the initial response to the Covid pandemic, before being replaced in 2020 when a new coalition government formed.

After that, he was appointed as Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and has held this role since, with a brief window when he served as Minister for Justice on a temporary basis during the maternity leave of Helen McEntee.


On Sunday, Harris outlined his priorities in a speech at a convention in Athlone, County Westmeath, in which party members gathered to choose candidates for the upcoming European elections. Speaking after the formal announcement of his new position, he expressed the wish to meet with all Fine Gael Ministers in the Cabinet to set priorities for what the party could achieve in the lifetime of the Government.

He added that he wanted his party to revert to core values, including making work pay, being tough on law and order and supporting farmers. He said, “Fine Gael stands for supporting businesses, especially small businesses the length and breadth of this country. Fine Gael stands for making work pay, for making sure we value work and we value people who go to work.”

He also said, “it was the absolute honour of my life” to be elected leader. After receiving a standing ovation, he concluded with: “I’m up for it. Are you?”

Speaking to reporters later, he followed his predecessor Varadkar in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

“Fine Gael stands as a party unafraid to speak truth to power about the catastrophe we are witnessing in Gaza and to voice in no uncertain terms the moral outrage of the Irish people,” he said.

“I repeat my calls today for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the immediate release of all hostages, an end to violence in the Middle East and a political process to bring about a two state solution,” he concluded.

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