Simon Harris’s new Cabinet formally appointed by President at Áras an Uachtaráin

‘I will work every day to improve the lives of all’, says new Fine Gael Taoiseach Simon Harris on first day in office


21:41

Timeline: Simon Harris appointed Taoiseach

  • Leo Varadkar said his farewells as Taoiseach at 10.30am and said of Harris, ‘I know he will rise to the occasion’
  • Simon Harris was nominated by Fine Gael deputy leader Heather Humphreys and seconded by Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke.
  • Opposition politicians give statements including Mary Lou McDonald who said: ‘For the third time, you rearrange the Cabinet deck chairs’
  • The Dáil voted to nominate Harris as Taoiseach with 88 TDs voting yes and 69 voting No.
  • After his nomination Simon Harris pledged to be a ‘Taoiseach for all’: ‘I want to work every day to improve the lives of all’
  • Simon Harris has been appointed Taoiseach after receiving his seal of office from President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin
  • Taoiseach and Opposition speeches were heard in the Dáil from 5.30pm
  • TDs voted on new Government Ministers on Tuesday evening
  • The new Cabinet was formally appointed by Mr Higgins at the Áras
  • The first meeting of the new Cabinet will be held in the Áras on Tuesday night, as is tradition

Top Reads


21:55

Well that’s it for tonight. To quote a government or two: a lot done, a lot more to do. Tomorrow we move into the lower, junior ministerial ranks and we’ll see how Simon Harris shuffles his cards there. Then there is an initial Cabinet meeting (the second, officially), no doubt some more opposition mauling of various kinds, and then into the last ten months or so of Government. We’ll pick it up here tomorrow. Thanks for joining our live coverage.


21:42

Well, it may seem like it but it’s not over yet you know. Marie O’Halloran reminds us that there will be a significant shake up of Ministers of State on Wednesday. It is expected that all will move positions from their current roles.


21:30

Taoiseach Simon Harris’s Government has been formally appointed by President Michael D Higgins, reports Jack White.

The new Taoiseach, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan alongside 12 ministers and three super junior ministers arrived together by bus at Áras an Uachtaráin shortly before 9pm.

They were formally appointed members of Government by President Higgins just hours after Simon Harris was officially appointed Taoiseach.

Some ministers arrived giddier than others, with significant laughter echoing from the President’s study before the ceremony.

Inside the State Reception Room, the President signed the Warrant of Appointment for the Cabinet and the Warrant of Appointment of the Attorney General, each of which was countersigned by the new Taoiseach.

The President then presented each Minister, as well as Attorney General Rossa Fanning, with their Seal of Office.

For the most part, the Cabinet arriving at Áras an Uachtaráin is not too dissimilar to the one which arrived to get its official sign-off in December, 2022.

Among the Cabinet members to get their official seals were new Ministers for Higher Education and Enterprise Patrick O’Donovan and Peter Burke, respectively, both of whom appeared elated.

Hildegarde Naughton was present not just as Government Chief Whip but also as Minister of State for Special Education and Inclusion, having taken on Josepha Madigan’s former brief.

After receiving their seals of office, and some family photos, the new Cabinet had its first meeting immediately after.


21:24

And here they are assembling for the first formal (second official) Cabinet portrait.


21:15

Our reporter Jack White is at the Áras for the official seal ceremony.


21:08

The Ministers arrived at the Áras just before 9pm. They are due to be called in to meet the President and receive their official seals individually. Then we’ll have the second official group snap before the first official Cabinet meeting, mainly a ceremonial affair before things begin anew on Wednesday.


20:44

Pat Leahy, Political Editor

Outgoing taoiseach Leo Varadkar probably summed it up best. He always knew Simon Harris would be taoiseach, he told the Dáil in his valedictory speech this morning. He just didn’t think it would be so soon.

Harris is not just the youngest taoiseach ever; he faces, probably, the greatest step-up of anyone who has assumed the highest political office in the land. He has not held any of the finance or economic portfolios, or foreign affairs, nor has he led the Opposition. By the standards of those who normally come to the office, or its foreign equivalents, he is undoubtedly inexperienced.

That is not a barrier to success. The great generation that founded the independent Irish State was pretty wet behind the ears. Michael Collins was 31 when he died; Éamon de Valera was president of the First Dáil at the age of 36, a year younger than Harris is now. More than half of the first cabinet of the Free State was under the age of 35.

But just as experience is no guarantee of wisdom, so youth is not, in itself, a virtue. The qualities that Harris will need to be a successful taoiseach and a successful leader of his party are the same at 37 as they would be at 47 or any other age: an even temperament, self-belief, strength of character, the courage to take on problems and not seek to avoid them; stamina, both mental and physical; judgment; and, maybe, a fair dollop of luck.

Pat Leahy’s full analysis is here.


20:39

The new Cabinet Ministers should soon be arriving at the Aras to receive their seals of office.


20:11

You’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who does not by now know who the new Taoiseach is. But here is a recap on what else happened today:

  • Simon Harris appointed his new ministers to Cabinet, ending a period of fevered speculation (well, among some).
  • Peter Burke was appointed Minister for Enterprise, the role recently vacated by Simon Coveney
  • The new Minister for Further Education was given to Patrick O’Donovan, a promotion for the Limerick TD who had been Minister of State for the Office of Public Works
  • Hildegarde Naughton becomes Minister of State for Special Education and leaves her position as junior minister at the Department of Health
  • She also retained her position as Government chief whip, in which she sits at Cabinet as a so-called super junior
  • Jennifer Carroll Mac Neill, who had been a Minister of State with responsibility for Financial Services, fills the vacant role of Minister of State for European Affairs
  • Helen McEntee retained her justice portfolio and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys also held on to their positions
  • Earlier on Tuesday, Harris was confirmed as Taoiseach at a ceremony in Aras an Uachtarain with President Michael D Higgins
  • Mr Higgins signed the Warrant of Appointment and handed the Seal of the Taoiseach and the Seal of Government to Mr Harris
  • In the Dáil, Harris’ nomination to become the country’s new premier was backed by 88 votes to 69
  • The father of two became Ireland’s 16th taoiseach following the surprise resignation of Leo Varadkar three weeks ago

19:51

That appears to wrap up the debate on the appointment of new Ministers. The last stragglers have left the Chamber and a long celebratory day for Taoiseach Simon Harris is nearing its end – at least except for one last trip to the Aras for official seals.


19:48

Marian Harkin has said the Government has failed the northwest. She tells the Taoiseach it’s not just her opinion, and quotes him lots of economic figures.

“Small businesses urgently need your support and businesses particularly along the border region have exceptional difficulties and I’m asking you to do what you can to support them. I also want you to listen to our farmers.”

Deputy Michael Fitzmaurice said it wasn’t personal but he couldn’t support the Government with its policies. He says too, that rising water levels and flooding at Lough Funshinagh in Co Roscommon is a serious problem – perhaps he can go there before he goes to Kerry, he says, but the issue is clearly very serious.

“This isn’t alarmist, this is because we’re from the soil, we live in the soil,” he says, adding that “farmer bashing” needs to stop.


19:24

Deputy Matt Shanahan of the regional group of TDs criticises the Metro as an example of the need to control public spending. He asks Harris to make banking and insurance in Ireland more competitive – an industry with huge margins, and consumers with little choice.

Denis Naughten, he of former Fine Gael and ministerial ranks, has congratulated Simon Harris and wishes Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney well in their futures. The opposition won’t like this; he’s listing off all the achievements and congratulating the new Ministers. “A great personal honour, a great political honour”.

Naughten may have caught their attention here but he moves quickly on to the issue of flooding in his constituency – a critical issue now. He’s literally on to parish pump politics.

Roscommon County Council have told him that this trend of rising water will continue – without intervention, four homes will be permanently lost next winter without emergency legislation to implement the controlled removal of water.

Deputy Carol Nolan in the rural group of Independent TDs is up – neutrality and immigration issues are quickly raised. She cannot support the ministerial nominations, she says.

Deputy Mattie McGrath says the Government is spending over €7 million of tax payer money in ministerial advisers. The recent referendums, he says, have shown the rise of soundbites and the decay of substance. There is an effort here to distract the public from the Government’s many failures.

In Simon’s world, he says, there is a curious alternative reality where everything is working as it should. “But people don’t live in Simon’s world.”

Michael Healy-Rae begins with a congratulations for those leaving and wishes to be the first person to invite the new Taoiseach to Co Kerry (it’s hardly Washington but it’s in good spirit).

He asks the Government to stop attacking Airbnb and short term lets. The fodder scheme is not enough. GPs and emergency departments, well, please help.

His brother Danny asks the Government to do more for the farmers. “Please ease off on them ... don’t annihilate them like you’ve already done to the fishing industry. We do need food. We will always continue to need food.”


19:11

Bríd Smith of People Before Profit is straight into it, congratulating Harris for being able to afford his own home. He has never once, she tells him in the Dáil, spoken up against a single policy that has caused the housing and homelessness crisis.

“Why should we believe you that you’re going to move heaven and earth now?”

Harris is spared though, it seems – Smith is quickly into Micheál Martin on foreign policy issues and notably on the neutrality debate. There should be a referendum, she says.

She asks Harris to follow through on Palestine. “It’s deeds that matter and you can perform the deed.”

Paul Murphy, at her side, adds to the housing topic. He describes a long-vacant home, owned by a vulture fund. One of more than 1,500 in Dublin 24 alone, he tells him. Contrast that with the number of homeless children.

“We have a Government who represents those that benefit from [crises],” he says. “There is going to be no change with Simon Harris on that fundamental.”


18:57

Holly Cairns, Social Democrats leader, congratulates Simon Harris and the Cabinet.

But wait for it. “I also have to ask what are we really doing here today?” Reshuffling personalities, keeping old policies, she says.

“No new ideas, no new plans and no new policies.”

Cairns said that to listen to the other side of the House, the Government is doing a great job, but she speaks of record house prices, children in emergency accommodation and a collapse in home ownership.

We got here from decades of failed policy and that is not a matter of political point scoring, she says. It is pointing out the obvious.

“This Government and the previous government have had countless opportunities to get housing right.”

Thousands are emigrating. Political choices made by governments have led to the dreams of an entire generation being either diminished or completely destroyed.

“The people who have gotten us into this mess, I don’t believe, are the ones to get us out of it.”


18:51

Cormac McQuinn reports that, according to sources, Dublin Rathdown TD Neale Richmond is expected to be appointed Minister of State for Finance on Wednesday.

He is set to replace Jennifer Carroll McNeill at the Department of Finance now that she has been named as the new Minister of State for European Affairs.

It is understood Mr Richmond is to be a “key part” of Fine Gael’s economic team and will be tasked with drawing up the party’s five-year tax plan


18:50

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has said the appointment of the new Ministers is only for a short time, but she is quick to point out the many, many things they might do in policy. She’s rattling them off.

Child homelessness and the cost of living for households; consumer rights, the price of energy and climate change. A recruitment embargo in the HSE should be lifted and “we need to see it happen”.

For the new Minister for Enterprise, wages are too low. Bring in a living wage. The right to organise. For the new Minister for Further and Higher Education, apprentices must be paid a minimum wage. There must be a plan to recruit and train the construction workers we need to solve the housing crisis.

Addressing Harris now, Bacik said Labour are, however, prepared to work constructively with Government.


18:39

Housing, healthcare, teachers, childcare – she is hitting all the right notes. Government, she says, must end the “insult” of childcare workers signing on during the summer. It is a brace for Harris’s first sitting in the big chair. Law and order? “My eye” McDonald says. The inner city communities she represents, she tells the other side of the house, feel abandoned with garda resources spread too thin.

“Safe communities grow from the grass roots up; you don’t get that though,” she says. Community investment is the smartest investment they can make. Those involved in serious crime must now face the full force of the law, the Sinn Féin leader says.


18:36

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald is now speaking in the Dáil, predictably attacking the new Government and Fine Gael, who have ensured, she says, Ireland “is no country for young” people. We have had three new leaders in the current Government she said (again). This Government has been like the last guest at a party who has worn out their welcome but still won’t go home. Ouch.


18:32

Well here we go, hot off the press, the first official photograph of Simon Harris’s newly formed Cabinet


18:17

This comes from our Northern Editor, Freya McClements:

The election of Simon Harris as Taoiseach is an opportunity to “learn from the missteps of the previous administration” and “reset relationships” between unionists and the Irish Government, the DUP interim leader has said.

Gavin Robinson congratulated Mr Harris on his appointment and said he looked forward to engaging with him “in due course.”

Addressing members and supporters of the North Antrim DUP Association in Ballymena on Tuesday evening, Mr Robinson said “the Republic of Ireland is our nearest neighbour and I want us to be good neighbours with sensible co-operation.”

“This is an opportunity for the Dublin Government to learn from the missteps of the previous administration which gravely damaged the southern relationship with unionists.”

The former taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, was accused by unionists of threatening violence – which he vehemently denied – during the Brexit negotiations, when he used the example of the bombing of a customs post during the Troubles to emphasise to Brussels why there could not be a hard border on the island of Ireland.

He was also criticised for his support for a united Ireland, a potential pressure point which Mr Harris has already kicked into the long grass, saying to Sky News earlier this week that it was a “legitimate aspiration but not a priority.”

Mr Robinson said Northern Ireland was a “divided society, and progress has only ever been made through consensus.

“The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland must be based on the Three Strands where there is respect shown by the Taoiseach for matters which are the preserve of the parties in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom government.”


18:08

Marie O’Halloran reports that Taoiseach Simon Harris has announced Jennifer Carroll Mac Neill as Minister of State at Department of the Taoiseach and Foreign affairs with responsibility for European Affairs and Minister of State for defence.

He confirmed Rossa Fanning will remain as Attorney General, and says Hildegarde Naughton will add minister for State for Special Education and Inclusion to her role as Government Chief Whip.


17:38

The new administration has been given a standing ovation from the Government side of the House as they enter the Dáil chamber. There was the sound of silence from the opposition benches. And that’s it from me for today. Mark Hilliard will be taking over for the rest of the evening.


17:37

And in what will come as a surprise to absolutely no one, Paschal Donohoe, Heather Humphreys and Helen McEntee are all staying put in their current roles.


17:17

The congratulations are coming thick and fast now and Jack Power, Europe Correspondent has some more details from across the EU.

Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, sent her congratulations to the new Taoiseach. “We will work hand in hand to deliver for the people of Ireland, and for Europe as a whole,” she said.

Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, congratulated Mr Harris on his appointment in a post on X. “Estonia and Ireland are close partners in the EU and bilaterally. Looking forward to meeting you soon and further strengthening our co-operation,” she said.

Luc Frieden, the prime minister of Luxembourg, similarly said he was looking forward to working with Mr Harris on the European Council.


17:08

Jennifer Bray has confirmed that Patrick O’Donovan has been appointed Minister for Higher Education. Hildegarde Naughton will remain as Chief Whip but with a new brief on special needs, while Helen McEntee will remain as Minister for Justice.


16:59

Cormac McQuinn has just confirmed that Peter Burke has been appointed Minister for Enterprise.


16:00

The US Ambassador Claire Cronin has congratulated Simon Harris.

“I had very productive discussions with the Taoiseach in his previous role about growing links between United States and Ireland in the higher education sector and about deepening our research collaboration,” she said in a statement. “As we mark 100 years of diplomatic relations, I look forward to working with the Taoiseach to further strengthen the partnership between our countries and the friendship between our people.


15:45

Our spy on the bridge of sighs has just sighted Peter Burke entering Government Buildings. Will he be leaving as the Minister for Enterprise? I have no idea but our spy – sometimes referred to as political correspondent Jennifer Bray – tells me he was smiling.


15:22

This just in from Mark Paul in London.

Whereas Leo Varadkar had a high-profile status approaching notoriety in the Westminster political and media bubble, Simon Harris is seen as far more of an unknown quantity in Britain.

The Wicklow man’s speedy emergence last month as Varadkar’s successor spawned a cottage industry of “who is he?” articles in British newspapers and websites.

Just days before Varadkar announced his shock resignation, Harris had been in London in the run-up to St Patrick’s Day attending events at the Irish embassy and in Irish community centres. Few locals seemed to know what his position was in the Government.

Following a jaunty speech by Harris at the prestigious press and political reception at the Irish embassy in Belgravia, Politico’s London Playbook, the daily gossip bible for Westminster, incorrectly referred to him the next morning as “Ireland’s education minister”. The following week, after Varadkar announced he was stepping down, the Guardian made the same mistake in an editorial.

Soon, however, they were all referring to him as “Ireland’s next PM”.

Harris has been keen to play up his interest in improving Irish-British relations since it became clear that he would become Taoiseach. He suggested to Sky News over the weekend that plans to develop “closer relations” with his now-opposite number in the UK, prime minister Rishi Sunak, and to “further improve the bilateral relationship” between the State and Britain.

On one of the last occasions on which they spoke, Varadkar and Sunak jousted over the Government’s decision to take legal action against Britain over its enactment of the Legacy Act, which gives immunity to, among others, British soldiers for crimes committed during the Troubles.

The case has annoyed the UK government. Harris, meanwhile, has made clear that he fully backs it. He told The Irish Times while in London that he was “saddened” that the Republic had felt forced to sue the UK over the issue, but that it was the Government’s “right and duty” to pursue the case.

On his visit to Britain last month as Minister for Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Harris’s opposite number in the UK government, secretary of state for Science Michelle Donelan, was unavailable to meet him, having flown off to a G7 gathering.

The next time Harris visits London, he may hope to visit 10 Downing Street. Whether Sunak, whose position is under pressure, will be still there to greet him is another matter.


15:09

Simon Harris has now left the Áras and will be heading for Government Buildings where the Cabinet calls will be made.


14:31

News from Jack Power in Brussels

Taoiseach Simon Harris is set to travel to Brussels later this week, where it is expected he will meet European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

Afterwards it is expected Mr Harris will travel to Warsaw to attend an informal dinner with several EU leaders organised by Charles Michel, current president of the European Council.

Mr Michel has organised a series of dinners with small groups of leaders to discuss the EU’s priorities for the next five years. During the trip Mr Harris and Mr Michel will also likely have a separate one-on-one meeting.

The Taoiseach’s first string of overseas engagements will come in advance of a summit of EU leaders in Brussels next week, which is expected to discuss plans to make the union more competitive economically.


14:19

He’s Schrodinger’s Taoiseach no more. This just in from our man at the Áras, Jack White.

Simon Harris has officially been appointed Taoiseach.

Mr Harris arrived at Áras an Uachtaráin shortly after 2pm after being nominated and elected in the Dáil by 88 votes to 69.

There was not an umbrella in sight at Phoenix Park on Tuesday afternoon as he was greeted by President Higgins and His wife Sabina, a stark contrast to Monday evening when former Taoiseach Leo Varadkar formally tendered his resignation at Áras an Uachtaráin.

Inside the State Reception Room, the President signed the Warrant of Appointment and presented the Seal of the Taoiseach and the Seal of Government to Mr Harris, formally becoming the 16th and youngest Taoiseach at the age of 37.

Mr Harris’ wife Caoimhe and his children Saoirse and Cillian were present alongside his parents Mary and Bart and other members of his family.

Mr Harris’ two-year-old son along with members of the media eagerly awaited his fathers arrival to the State Reception Room, with Cillian asking for “daddy”.

Cillian ventured on foot towards us father and the president while signing.

Mr Harris has now privately joined the President for refreshments in his study and will soon return to Leinster House to form a Cabinet.

After making some difficult decisions, he will return to the Áras later this evening when his Government will be officially appointed by President Higgins.


14:18

From Freya McClements, our Northern Editor:

The Northern parties have begun sending their congratulations to Simon Harris and unsurprisingly the emphasis is on strong north-south links.

The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, welcomed the new Taoiseach’s “abiding interest in the North” and said he looked forward to working with him “to strengthen North South co-operation, which has suffered as a result of the suspension of devolution in the North, to build on the work of the Shared Island Unit and to continue the important work of bringing the people and traditions that share our island together.”

The leader of the Alliance Party, Naomi Long, said she wished Mr Harris “all the best” in his new role.

“The tenure of his predecessor Leo Varadkar saw a close and productive working relationship further progressed between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and I am confident Mr Harris will continue to nurture this positive partnership between the North and South,” she said.

“In the coming days and weeks ahead, we will continue to work together with those across the political spectrum with the aim of strengthening co-operation across the island of Ireland, and I look forward to working with Mr Harris as part of that.”


14:13

We’re having a debate about whether or not Simon Harris is actually the Taoiseach yet. He has won the backing of the Dáil but has yet to get the seal of office from the President. I’ve settled on calling him Schrodinger’s Taoiseach. Mind you I won’t be calling him that for long, as he has just arrived at the Áras and will soon be the Taoiseach for real life as Bluey might say.


13:48

“This is a time of great challenge, it’s a time in the world where leadership matters. In Ukraine we see brave and courageous people standing firm against unprovoked war and aggression. In Gaza we are witnessing A humanitarian catastrophe and we are seeing innocent children women and men being starved and slaughtered. We have not been silent on the unforgivable terrorist actions of Hamas on October 7th nor can we be silence on the disproportionate reaction of the Israeli Government.

And as a country we will play our part in helping bring about ceasefire and the lasting peace.

“Later this week I will travel to Brussels and deliver those messages to Europe on behalf of the Irish people. Ireland’s position in Europe is vital to our economic and social success it has in many ways now become a part of our national identity.

“Yesterday I was honoured to join my Government colleagues in meeting with the first and deputy first ministers of Northern Ireland at the North South ministerial council and I as Taoiseach pledge to guard and honour my role as protector and guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.

“We have so much more to achieve for all communities on this island and I look forward to working very much with the Northern Ireland executive because Ireland must never take peace or freedom for granted.

“Our political history has been defined by our quest for freedom, freedom of country freedom of conscience the freedom to achieve freedom. Today in the 21st century our destiny is to build on these achievements to provide hope to provide opportunity to provide a better future for all. This must be our mission, our pledge to the generations to come whilst I am proudly the leader of Fine Gael I will lead a Coalition of three parties and today I sincerely promise to be a Taoiseach for all. No matter your political persuasion I will work with you and for you and for the country that I know we all love. I will be a Taoiseach who will listen.

“My message is simple I want to work every day to improve the lives of all in this country fuelled by hope and driven by a vision of a better world. I will provide a new leadership and a new energy.

“I intend to act decisively in the best interests of our people. Going back centuries our shared history is more than simply a narrative of oppression and resistance and the courageous triumph over adversity it is a story about belief in each other of faith in the future, the Irish story is a story of hope. A spirit of optimism sustained us in the darkest of days and today once again we must ensure it lights our way forward.

“Let us not make the mistake of giving into pessimism and despair about our future history has been written in Dáil Éireann so many times since January 1919 we can and must write it again by rising above partisan politics by working together to solve the greatest challenges of our time. The people expect us to do more we should demand of ourselves no less.


13:42

“It is 13 years since I made my maiden speech in this chamber to nominate Enda Kenny as Taoiseach. [He was] someone who went on to fulfil the considerable faith that so many of us had in him as he led a Government that helped to rescue our economy and restored our economic sovereignty.

“Back then I reflected on what values I thought were needed for the job in hand – integrity, honesty and a work rate which cannot be surpassed as Taoiseach I will demand of myself what I saw as so important then. And to return to the words I spoke that day I promise to preside over a Government committed to public service at a time when such commitment is so urgently required.

“I believed then that a Taoiseach should work every day to realise the hopes dreams and aspirations of all our people and I still do so today. I accept this new role in a spirit of humility ready for the challenge and full of energy and determination about what can be achieved. As Taoiseach, I want to bring new ideas and new energy and I hope a new empathy to public life.

“But politics is never about the office holder – this is not about me, it is about all of us, all of us working together to serve the people.

“We as a people, we as a country have over the last 100 years worked tirelessly together to create our own future. Collectively this country can and should be proud of the progress that it has made. The number of people with a job is higher than ever before, the number of people accessing education is among the highest in the European Union but now is an opportune moment to build a new social contract one which renews our promise as a Republic to create equality of opportunity to support those who need the State the most, to protect our hard earned economic success, to use its benefits to deliver tangible outcomes to society.

“Time is certainly short and there’s lots to do.

“Housing remains the greatest societal and economic challenge of our generation – today I recommit to moving mountains to help build more homes and drive more home ownership. I will work tirelessly to support the delivery of Slaintecare, prioritise the delivery of mental health services and in a step change in how we care for older people.

“I mean this seriously I want to work with colleagues across this house to deliver real and meaningful reform for people with disabilities.

“I want to see everyone reach their full potential. I want to help create an Ireland that drives innovation and creativity an Ireland that is compassionate, tolerant and respectful, a country that gives every child an equal start in life, an Ireland that protects our children’s future by acting decisively on the climate crisis, an Ireland that values community and rural and regional development.


13:36

“Today is indeed a very special day for me. When I started campaigning on issues close to my heart and got involved in politics, I chose this life but my family did not ... but through every step of the journey they have supported me without question I want to particularly thank my parents Mary and Bart who are here today. They have been my driving force often making many personal sacrifices for their three children. I hope they can be proud today of their eldest son because I absolutely know I would not be standing here were it not for them.

“I want to thank my sister Gemma and my brother Adam they are my best friends and we are each other’s biggest supporters and I also want to thank my Nana who is here with us today. My biggest thank you goes to my wife Caoimhe who is my rock and an incredible mother to our two beautiful children and lastly to my children Saoirse and Cillian who mean the absolute world to me. I promise it will remain my most important job.


13:33

The speech from Simon Harris.

“I want to begin by thanking my own party, Fine Gael and also our partners in Government Fianna Fáil and the Green Party for their votes and also for the independent TDs who supported my nomination here today.

“This is very much a partnership Government and I intend to lead it in the spirit unity and collaboration and mutual respect.

“Today I want to pay tribute to our outgoing Taoiseach, to my colleague, to my friend deputy Leo Varadkar. The history books will absolutely record the incredible service that he did for our country in dealing with some of the biggest challenges of our time most notably Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic but history will also record that he was a trailblazer as we broke free from some of the worst prejudices of our past and showing Ireland at its best to the world.

“I also want to pay tribute to my friend and colleague Simon Coveney who’s stepping down as a minister after serving our country with distinction in so many different roles over so many different years.

“In particular I think any objective analysis will never forget all that he did for our country during the darkest days of Brexit and today we acknowledge that, we thank you for your contribution to Ireland and I know it’s a contribution you will continue.”

More to come


13:20

The Taoiseach Simon Harris (the first time I’ve written that phrase but not, I suspect, the last) has received a standing ovation from one side of the house and a smattering of applause from the other. He also spoke about his vision for the future. Details of what he had to say are on the way.


13:12

So, there you have it. The vote is done and Simon Harris is the new Taoiseach. He was elected by 88 votes to 69. From here he will head to the Áras to be formally appointed by the President Michael D Higgins.


13:11

Now on to the opposition starting with Sinn Féin. Everyone is saying Nil. \


13:10

The Clerk of the Dáil Peter Finnegan is running through a roll call of the 160 Deputies starting with Fianna Fáil. All are saying ‘Tá’.


13:08

From Harry McGee: It’s clear that Simon Harris and those around them have kept intentions tight when it comes to who will get the nod. The only point of consensus among TDs and Senators is that Peter Burke will be appointed a Minister, and at the Department of Enterprise. Who will get the other role is a matter of ongoing speculation, although it now seems to be become a choice between two TDs: Patrick O’Donovan from Limerick County; and Hildegarde Naughton from Galway West. Naughton is the Chief Whip, with a place at Cabinet. If she is promoted, logically O’Donovan would become chief whip. The portfolio that seems to be on offer is Higher and Further Education, Harris’ old stomping ground. There is little talk among TDs around Leinster House this morning of any of the existing Ministers being shuffled. But, of course, time will tell as to the reliability of all this.


12:59

No long to go now ... A nation holds its breath.

“Will members please take their designated seats.....” Here we go.


12:54

The vote for the nomination of Taoiseach has just been called. The bells are ringing out in Leinster House. Voting in ten minutes.

So, in 15 minutes or so there should be a new Taoiseach.


12:50

And we have more from Cormac McQuinn.

Galway East Independent TD Seán Canney is the latest Independent TD to confirm he will support Simon Harris in today’s Dáil vote that will see the Fine Gael leader become Taoiseach.

He told The Irish Times: “It is better to have stability at this time rather than an election.”

Canney – who was an independent junior minister in the 2016-2020 Fine Gael-led minority Government – said the incoming Taoiseach has a 12-month window for him “to change things around” especially in the area of rural and regional development.

Harris can expect the backing of at least seven Independent TDs, bolstering the current Coalition’s slim Dáil majority.

The others are Kildare South TD Cathal Berry, Louth deputy Peter Fitzpatrick, Noel Grealish of Galway West; Roscommon-Galway TD Denis Naughten; Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry; Tipperary TD Michael Lowry; and Donegal’s Joe McHugh, a former Fine Gael minister who is without the whip.

Green Party Dublin Central TD Neasa Hourigan, who is currently suspended from her parliamentary party for a vote against the Government last year, has also confirmed she will vote for Mr Harris, further increasing the expected majority.


12:38

We have some news from political correspondent Cormac McQuinn. “Speculation in Leinster House is that Minister for European Affairs Peter Burke is headed for a role in Cabinet, most likely at the Department of Enterprise with the current minister there Simon Coveney bowing out. This frees up European Affairs – one of the most prominent roles in the ranks of junior ministers with Dún Laoghaire TD and Minister of State for Finance Jennifer Carroll MacNeill being linked to the job.”

Simon Harris, who is expected to be elected as Taoiseach in the Dáil this afternoon will not reveal his Cabinet team until later in the day.


12:14

And Richard Boyd Barrett has been eviscerating the Government’s record. Here’s just a flavour of what he has been saying.

“It is absolutely shameful that in a country as wealthy as ours, a generation of young and working people are priced out of the possibility of ever owning their own home.

“And many of them cannot afford the utterly unaffordable rents and we are seeing the return of mass emigration. Young people coming out of the universities and colleges that Simon Harris has been in charge of are leaving because they have no confidence that this Government is capable of giving them a secure and affordable roof over their head so the skills and the talents they have developed are being taken elsewhere to other countries because they believe there is no future for them.”

You might have missed it but Danny Healy-Rae has nominated brother Michael for the office of Taoiseach. The nomination has been seconded by Mattie McGrath who also calls for an election.


12:10

Holly Cairns has pointed out that Fine Gael have been in power for almost all of her adult life while it has also been in power for almost all of Simon Harris’s adult life. Her party will not be supporting him as Taoiseach because it wants a fresh approach.


12:09

Marie O’Halloran is reporting that TDs have been leaving the chamber, with more departing after each party leader finishes speaking. It has gone from a full house to just over half the 160 TDs present.


11:49

And she finishes by saying: “The people must have their say, they should decide who forms the next Government so the trip that will be made to this afternoon to the Áras shouldn’t be to seek his appointment as Taoiseach, it should be to ask President Higgins to dissolve this stall and call a general election.”


11:44

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald has a somewhat different view.

“For the third time you rearrange the Cabinet deck chairs, for the third time in four years, you pat each other on the back and tell the people what a great job you’re doing. The narrative we hear today from Government is a fairy tale so outrageous that Hans Christian Andersen himself would be proud of it.

“For people to believe the spin from the Government benches they would have to suspend all connection with reality ... because on the things that really matter to workers and families you have comprehensively failed and no amount of bragging or bluster will disguise that fact.”

She points to the “housing crisis, a health service that’s crumbling, a cost of living crisis that pushes households to the brink – that’s the reality so you will forgive us gentlemen when people don’t buy the fiction that you’re spinning today don’t buy a story that dresses up failure as progress.”


11:44

The leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan also pays tribute to Leo Varadkar and says Simon Harris is “very well placed” to be Taoiseach.

He points to his community work as a teenager and his role as health minister during the Pandemic.


11:34

Mr Martin also said that “no party or deputy in this house has a mandate to claim to represent the views of all Irish people or to demand exclusive control of public policies for themselves. There are those in this House who scorn at the idea of centrist politics. To them the purity of ideology is comforting and they show this by never having any doubts about their own views and the certainty of their own views.”

He said it was an “unfortunate reality that much of the opposition has committed itself to a type of politics which is obsessed with fake outrage and attacking everything.

The display we have seen in recent weeks about the election of a new Taoiseach has become more strained and absurd.

“Repeatedly we have heard the claim that this is somehow undemocratic and that there should be an election every time a new Taoiseach has to be elected.

“I must confess that I’ve been amazed by the brazenness of the largest opposition party on this matter,” he says, targeting Sinn Féin. “It has a unique record of privately appointing and replacing leaders without ever holding an internal election let alone a public one, in fact today no opposition party large or small has a leader who went through a competitive election before assuming the role.”


11:30

The Tánaiste Micheál Martin has paid tribute to Leo Varadkar said he had served his party and his country “through often quite difficult times which required the Government ... to respond to rapidly changing events.

“During the past four years we have served in Government together including the intense and often isolated times during the pandemic I very much appreciate the spirit of open and honest discussion in which we were able to operate especially with Deputy Ryan as we worked together.”

He said he enjoyed Mr Varadkar’s reflections “which could be the beginning perhaps of a book or a publication in terms of your time in office.. I want to thank you for your service and I want to wish you partner Matt and your wider family well and I’ve no doubt that you will continue to be an active voice in our public affairs.”


11:15

Heather Humphreys has nominated Simon Harris as Taoiseach and tells the chamber that he actually wanted to be a vet. “But of course life as we all know takes us in different directions,” she says with a degree of understatement.


10:55

A vote on the Order of Business for the week is now taking place. In the meantime, the Ceann Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghaill has rapped Richard Boyd Barrett across the knuckles telling him that it is not appropriate to call the election of a Taoiseach a jamboree.


10:52

More from Leo’s last speech.

“We’ve been a stable democracy for over 100 years, one of only a handful in the world. We have our problems, but we are free and prosperous and safe ... Ireland is not a failed state, it is a great State”.

He told the House that most if not all problems that we faced in the past 15 years have been of international or external origin or have had some international dimension to them.

“Even challenges like health and housing, that are more domestic in nature, have a strong international [dimension]. Health services [are under] pressure all over the world due to rising and ageing populations, the development of new and expensive treatments and the global skill shortage.

Mr Varadkar said health was “not a black hole and could be fixed.”

He warned against excessive caution and said the majority of officials, advisory bodies and academics will recommend the same conservative response, but that was not always the best advice.

He said of politicians that “we need to learn to disagree more” and he spoke of the state more than 100,000 refugees.

In his closing remarks he paid tribute to Mr. Harris and wished him “every success in his new role as Taoiseach”.

He said he always knew Mr Harris would be Taoiseach but perhaps a little sooner than he expected. “But I know he will rise to the occasion. He has empathy, energy spirits, campaigning skills, political antennae to take us forward and I look forward to voting for him,” he said.

He received a standing ovation at the end of his speech.


10:37

As you can see from the live stream of Dáil proceedings the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is saying his farewells to the chamber right now. He has described his time as a minister and Taoiseach as “the most rewarding time of my life ... But today is the beginning of a new chapter in my life and for the Government.”


10:35

TDs and Senators have been slowing filing into the Dáil chamber. Outgoing minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney is walking up and down the back of the chamber, on his phone, writes Marie O’Halloran.

Groups of TDs and Ministers chatting in groups at the back of the chamber.

Incoming Taoiseach Simon Harris has just taken his seat after giving former Minister of State Josepha Madigan a big hug. Ms Madigan resigned last month as minister and will stand down at the general election too.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin turned to shake her hand and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has also taken his seat.

Mr Harris also greeted his father, mother and other family members and friends who are just taking their seats in the VIP area.


10:20

Who’s in and who’s out is occupying many minds this morning. Pat Leahy said there is “lots of chat about the importance of geography in Cabinet choices. I think that works differently in different parts of the country. People in the West do feel that the West is always in danger of being ignored and want to have a voice at Cabinet table. Mayo can be appeased by Galway, and vice versa. But that doesn’t extend beyond the constituency boundaries in Munster. The idea that people in Cork would be happy with a Limerick minister – or one from Kerry, or Tipp, for that matter – I’m not sure that holds water.”


10:19

Marie O’Halloran has also been channelling her inner AA Roadwatch and has sent us this. “More cars and other vehicles than people at Leinster House as Merrion Square side blocked off from vehicular traffic, causing traffic chaos.”


10:13

Channelling my inner-AA Roadwatch, it’s worth noting that if you have business on the south side of the city centre in the hours ahead you might experience some delays. We have reports of many of the approach roads to the Dáil being policed so there might be diversions in place over the course of the morning.


10:09

Now, while Leo Varadkar resigned as Taoiseach in the Áras last night, he is still the Taoiseach and will be until Simon Harris wins a majority of the votes in the Dáil in support of his nomination.

Once that happens the Dáil will adjourn and Mr Harris will head off to the Áras himself to be presented with his seal of office by the President Michael D Higgins.

Then as Taoiseach he will head back to Government Buildings to his swanky new office and start the hiring and firing process in earnest. As our Political Editor Pat Leahy has noted, the ministers are shuffled in and out of the new Taoiseach’s office, having been summoned by his staff to come across from Leinster House to Government Buildings via the so-called “bridge of sighs” – an elevated glass walkway between the two buildings.

By around 5pm the axes will have fallen and the chosen few will have been elevated and Mr Harris will lead his Cabinet in a procession into the Dáil chamber and another debate – similar, in truth, to the morning’s one – on the nomination of the new Government takes place.

And that should be that.


10:05

From Marie O’Halloran: Simon Harris’s family have arrived at Leinster House and are receiving a little tour around part of the building.

His father and mother Bart and Mary Harris arrived with his wife Caoimhe Wade and other family members.

His father Bart said he was “delighted” to be there for the occasion. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said.


09:51

Welcome to what promises to be a big day in Irish politics. Barring a huge upset, Simon Harris will be Taoiseach by lunchtime after which he will start appointing his chosen few to Cabinet. He has at least two senior posts to fill – and possibly more than that. It will all become clear as the day progresses. I’m Conor Pope and I will be handling the Live News story for the day that’s it although the real stars of the show will be our politics team who will be supplying me with all the news that’s fit to print as they hear it. Please stand by.


09:50

What is happening today?

Today, the national parliament will follow a well-set choreography that has been done 15 times before in the history of the State, Harry McGee writes. Every other business in the Dáil will be suspended for one singular item, the election of a new Taoiseach.

When business starts at 10.30am, Simon Harris will be nominated for the position by Fine Gael deputy leader Heather Humphreys and seconded by Longford-Westmeath TD Peter Burke.

Sinn Féin will nominate Mary Lou McDonald but it will be merely a gesture. The Government parties will have a comfortable majority, thanks to the support of seven Independent TDs and others abstaining. Before noon, we will have taoiseach number 16.

At about 1pm, the new taoiseach will come out of the front doors of Leinster House flanked by a cordon of close-protection gardaí and Oireachtas ushers. He will be cheered by a huge crowd of Fine Gael TDs and Senators, councillors and hundreds of supporters, from the party, and from Wicklow.

A State car will be waiting to take him on the 6km journey to the Phoenix Park where President Michael D Higgins will present him with his seal of office. It’s at that moment when he formally becomes taoiseach.

Harris will be the 16th holder of that office since the foundation of the State a century ago. He will also be the youngest, at 37. I think he is also the first to become the third taoiseach within a single Dáil term. He may be the holder of other – less stratospheric – records. He could become the politician who has served the shortest time as taoiseach. John Bruton, Micheál Martin and Albert Reynolds were all in the office for roughly 2½ years. If Harris is not elected as taoiseach again, his term in office could be anything between six months and 11 months.

Later in the afternoon, Harris will return from the Áras and will set off an afternoon of intrigue in Leinster House. Over the course of the day, we will gradually discover the identity of the two new ministers.

Harris will summon the TDs one by one to his office in Government Buildings to tell them the good news and not-so-good news. Peter Burke, Hildegarde Naughton, Patrick O’Donovan, and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill are the four TDs vying for two seats at the Cabinet table. The smart money is also on Neale Richmond to become Minister of State for European Affairs, which will be an enhanced position.


Read More

Recommended