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Ireland set for youngest-ever PM after Simon Harris wins leadership of governing party

Ireland’s governing party Fine Gael has named Simon Harris as its new leader, paving the way for him to succeed former Prime Minister Leo Varadkar as the youngest Taoiseach in Irish history at age 37.

Varadkar announced his surprise resignation on Wednesday, citing “personal and political, but mainly political reasons.” He had made headlines in 2017 when aged 38 he became the youngest prime minister in Irish history at that time.

“It’s the absolute honour of my life to formally be here with you today in Athlone to accept the leadership of this great party, of our great party,” said Harris in his acceptance speech at a Fine Gael party conference in the Irish county of West Meath on Sunday.

Simon Harris embraces his family after being announced as the new leader of Fine Gael. - Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters
Simon Harris embraces his family after being announced as the new leader of Fine Gael. - Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters

“I want to thank every single person in this room and every single community you come from across Ireland. I want to thank you for your trust. And I want to promise and pledge to you today that I will repay that trust with hard work with blood, sweat and tears, day in and day out with responsibility, with humility, and with civility,” he said.

Harris also paid tribute to Varadkar for his “incredible leadership.”

“Each and every time he [Varadkar] delivered, whether it was the existential threats of Brexit and COVID or his contribution to key moments of social change in this country. I know and believe his legacy is significant since 2010,” said Harris.

Harris had been serving as Ireland’s minister for further and higher education. He also served as the country’s health minister from May 2016 to June 2020, according to Fine Gael’s website.

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