Simon Harris set to become Ireland's youngest prime minister after party election

Simon Harris became Ireland's prime minister in waiting on Sunday after he was elected unopposed to succeed Leo Varadkar as leader of the governing Fine Gael party.

Harris, a 37-year-old minister best known for helping steer the country's initial response to COVID-19, will set out some of his priorities to party members at an event in the Irish midlands town of Athlone on Sunday.

He will then be voted in as Ireland's youngest ever prime minister when parliament next sits on April 9 thanks to support from Fine Gael's coalition partners.

Harris will have no more than a year to save the coalition from defeat at parliamentary elections. Polls for the last three years have put Sinn Fein, a left-wing party that backs unification with Northern Ireland, a British province, as the favourite to head the next government.

However, two more polls on Sunday confirmed a recent trend of support for Sinn Fein dropping off highs of 12-18 months ago, though they again broadly showed smaller parties and independent candidates as the beneficiaries over the government parties.

A Business Post/Red C poll conducted before Varadkar's exit put Sinn Fein's lead over a stalling Fine Gael at 6 percentage points, while an Irish Independent/Ireland Thinks survey after he quit showed a 5-point edge after a small rise for Fine Gael.


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