Ireland poised to get its youngest ever premier as Simon Harris elected leader of Fine Gael party

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Simon Harris speaks after being confirmed as the new leader of Fine Gael, paving the way for him to become Ireland’s youngest premier, in Athlone, Ireland on March 24. (AP)

LONDON, March 25, (AP): Ireland is poised to get its youngest-ever premier next month after Simon Harris secured the leadership of the Fine Gael party on Sunday, replacing Leo Varadkar who announced his surprise resignation last week.
The 37-year-old Harris, who has been the coalition government’s further and higher education minister, was the only candidate to put his name forward to succeed Varadkar, who had been Ireland’s previous youngest prime minister, or what Ireland calls its taoiseach.
Harris is expected to be formally elected premier in the Irish parliament in early April after lawmakers return from their Easter break.
In his victory speech in the central Ireland town of Athlone, Harris said this was a “moment for Fine Gael to reconnect” with the people and pledged to fight against populist forces in Irish politics.
“I want this party to fight against populism and deliberate polarization,” he said.
He confirmed Fine Gael as a “proudly pro-European party,” condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.
Harris said nothing about the coalition government, which came into place at the end of 2020, but has previously said that he would remain fully committed to the program for government agreed upon with partners Fianna Fail and the Green Party. He has stopped short of ruling out a general election this year, but insisted such a poll wasn’t his priority.
Varadkar, 45, has had two spells as taoiseach – between 2017 and 2020, and again since December 2022 as part of a job-share with Micheál Martin, the head of Fianna Fáil.
He was the country’s youngest-ever leader when first elected at age 38. Varadkar, whose mother is Irish and father is Indian, was also Ireland’s first biracial taoiseach.

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