Simon Harris set to become Fine Gael leader as nominations close

Nominations have closed for the Fine Gael leadership contest with Simon Harris set to be confirmed as leader.

It is understood that the further and higher education minister is the only candidate.

This paves the way for Mr Harris to become Ireland’s youngest premier following the shock resignation of Leo Varadkar.

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.

A shortened leadership contest will see him announced as leader in Athlone, Co Westmeath on Sunday afternoon.

Mr Harris would then be expected to be formally elected as taoiseach in the Dail in April following the Easter recess.

He would become the country’s youngest premier at the age of 37.

Leo Varadkar steps down as Taoiseach
Leo Varadkar announced his resignation as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach last week (Nick Grimshaw/PA)

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

Mr Harris said that if elected leader, he would remain fully committed to the programme for government agreed with coalition partners Fianna Fail and the Green Party.

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

Mr Harris has said he is “overwhelmed and honoured” by the level of support he has secured for his Fine Gael leadership bid.