Ireland has a new head of government: Simon Harris succeeds Leo Varadkar. At 37 years old, he is the youngest and could soon be history again.

Simon Harris speaks to the media

Now ruling the Emerald Isle: Ireland's new Taoiseach, Simon Harris Photo: Eamon Ward/dpa

DUBLIN taz | Ireland has a new head of government: Simon Harris was elected Taoiseach, as the position is called in Irish, by the Dublin Parliament on Tuesday. There were no candidates against. After his predecessor Leo Varadkar unexpectedly announced his resignation in March, Harris immediately sought the support of MPs from her conservative Fine Gael party, with success.

The new guy faces big challenges. The housing crisis and problems in public services are dampening his center-right coalition's hopes of winning the elections, which will take place no later than March 2025. Farmers resent environmental regulations that are too strict, while climate activists complain that they are too lax. The relationship with London is tense after Brexit and the situation in Northern Ireland is unstable. Around a third of Fine Gael MPs would prefer to resign rather than face voters.

At 37, Harris is the youngest Irish prime minister in history, but new ideas cannot be expected from him. At the age of 22 he represented Fine Gael's orthodox line on business support at the party conference. And he has never strayed from the party line on corporate taxes, foreign direct investment and tax breaks for the middle class. In 2011, he stated that he was strongly opposed to relaxing the constitutional ban on abortion. After two years he changed his mind. A friend of the party said this Irish timesthat Harris likes to hang his flag in the wind.

Confusing phrases in the pandemic

He only has a clear stance on the war in Gaza. At the weekend party conference where he bid farewell to Varadkar, Harris received a standing ovation when he said the Irish people were “disgusted” by the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Anyone who intentionally allows people to starve has lost their humanity,” he said. The Israeli ambassador was not welcome at the party conference.

Harris grew up in Greystones, a coastal town south of Dublin, the son of a taxi driver and a special education teacher. He wrote a play when he was 13 years old. After leaving school, he studied French and journalism at the Dublin Institute of Technology, but dropped out in 2008. A year later he was elected to Wicklow County Council and in 2011 became the youngest Member of Parliament. . Five years later he assumed the position of Minister of Health.

In this position, he not only failed to reform the dysfunctional healthcare system, but during the coronavirus pandemic he was also deeply embarrassed when he discussed the prospect of a vaccine in confusing phrases. Shortly afterward he lost office and became Minister of Research and Science.

In 2017 he married nurse Caoimhe Wade. They both have a daughter and a son. Harris lives with Crohn's intestinal disease, but notes that it has little impact on his daily life.

As well as MPs from his own party, his coalition partners Fianna Fáil and the Greens also voted for him on Tuesday. However, they would also have voted for a chimpanzee to avoid new elections, because the three parties are far behind Sinn Féin, the former political wing of the now dissolved Irish Republican Army (IRA), in the polls. From now on, Harris will likely go down in history as not only the youngest Taoiseach, but also the one with the shortest tenure.

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