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Simon Harris confirmed as new leader of Fine Gael

Simon Harris has been confirmed as the new leader of Fine Gael – paving the way for him to become Ireland’s youngest premier.

The announcement was made in Athlone by the chairman of the party’s executive council, Willie Geraghty, after nominations closed and no other candidates put their names forward for the leadership.

Mr Harris, 37, currently the further and higher education minister, will be formally elected as taoiseach in the Dail in April following the Easter recess.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin as he announced he was to step down as Taoiseach and as leader of his party Fine Gael
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media at Government Buildings in Dublin as he announced he was to step down as Taoiseach and as leader of his party Fine Gael (Nick Bradshaw/PA)

It follows the shock announcement by Leo Varadkar that he would be stepping down as Fine Gael leader and would resign as taoiseach as soon as his successor was selected.

Mr Harris announced his candidature on Thursday night following a series of endorsements from within the Fine Gael parliamentary party and after a number of senior colleagues said they did not intend to stand for the leadership.

He has previously said he remains fully committed to the programme for government agreed with coalition partners Fianna Fail and the Green Party.

Mr Harris has stopped short of ruling out a general election this year but insisted such a poll was not his priority.

Outgoing Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Mr Varadkar surprised many within the political establishment by announcing his resignation on Wednesday.

He said he was resigning for “personal and political reasons” and was “not the best person for the job anymore”.