Wednesday 18 September 2019

'The next Irish PM?' - Simon Harris stokes ambitions to be Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar, left, and Simon Harris(@LeoVaradkar/Twitter/PA)
Leo Varadkar, left, and Simon Harris(@LeoVaradkar/Twitter/PA)
Hugh O'Connell

Hugh O'Connell

Health Minister Simon Harris has reignited his ambition to be Taoiseach and talked-up his career achievements to date in an interview with a prestigious Brussels-based news outlet.

Mr Harris did not rule out the becoming Taoiseach in an interview with the highly-respected Politico website as part of a profile article that is headlined: ‘The next Irish PM?’

"Certainly, if you manage the Department of Health, I suppose it shows your abilities to take on a big role in government," Mr Harris told journalist Carmen Paun.

The interview as part of a largely glowing profile that is likely to set tongues wagging in Irish political circles during the quiet summer period with the Dáil in recess.

Mr Harris also touted some of his achievements to date including the 2018 referendum on abortion, the introduction of tough laws to crackdown on alcohol abuse, negotiating prices for cystic fibrosis drugs and agreeing on the cross-party Sláintecare plan to overhaul the health service.

“I’m now at the ripe old age of 32, one of the longest-serving health ministers in the EU, which is kind of interesting, in a minority government,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Frank McGrath

The article, which features a picture of Mr Harris meeting Queen Elizabeth II on her historic visit to Dublin in 2011, also points that the Fine Gael TD has had to deal with the fallout from the CervicalCheck debacle, the ongoing trolley crisis and a no-confidence motion following the National Children’s Hospital cost overrun.

Read more here: 'Do I want to be Taoiseach? You never say never' - Harris

It notes the comments of CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan who said in January that Mr Harris “would make a great Taoiseach” and includes an interview with former health minister Mary Harney who expressed her admiration for how he handled the abortion referendum and how popular and hands-on the minister is.

Mr Harris last discussed his leadership ambitions in June when he told the Sunday Independent “you never say never” when asked if he wanted to be Taoiseach. “I'm ambitious but being Taoiseach is not something for now," he said.

The Wicklow TD previously flirted with a leadership bid in 2017 when Enda Kenny stepped down as Fine Gael leader. But he decided not to run and instead opted to back Simon Coveney who lost out to Leo Varadkar. Despite his opposition to the eventual Fine Gael leader Mr Harris remained in cabinet.

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