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If Harris wants out of health, he won't be missed

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Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Tom Burke

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Tom Burke

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Tom Burke

Simon Harris is certainly a young man in a hurry. Primarily he's in a hurry to get out of the Department of Health.

So says his Cabinet colleague, Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan.

In a message to party colleagues, Mr Flanagan offered an insight into Mr Harris's views on his own terribly bright future. Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald wants Mr Harris to enter the Fine Gael leadership race and he sees it as a way to escape Hawkins House.

"He hasn't announced yet but Frances is encouraging him. He wants out of health," Mr Flanagan says.

The message was posted rather indiscreetly on an internal Fine Gael WhatsApp group on Sunday.

Mr Flanagan claims it was a case of "Sunday afternoon banter". Mr Harris has sought to play down the suggestion he was eyeing the exit door.

Then, of course, he proceeded to set out the credentials he feels make him an ideal candidate to become leader of the country.

During a speaking engagement at University Hospital Galway, he said he had displayed "leadership" throughout his short political life.

"Age to me is immaterial," the 30-year-old said. "I look to be judged on my job and the job that I am doing, and I am working as hard as I possibly can at that job.

"I try to provide leadership in whatever role I am given, whether I was Minister for the OPW, Minister of State for the Department of Finance. I am a TD for six years, county councillor before that, and now a member of Government as Minister for Health for the last 10 months.

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"There is no vacancy in the Fine Gael party. If and when one does arise I will consult with colleagues at that point," he added in relation to his own lofty ambitions.

Mr Harris is right. Age is immaterial. Delivery is what counts. And if he wants to be judged on the job he is doing, then the verdict won't be terribly kind.

After an ignominious 10 months as Health Minister, Mr Harris has precious little to show for it.

Nobody can really point to any achievements during this time, aside from record numbers on hospital A&E trolleys, ever-lengthening treatment waiting lists, and a continual sense of disarray within the health service.

If he wants out of the Department of Health, then the public won't be begging him to stay.

Last night, RTÉ's 'Tonight with Claire Byrne' broadcast the results of a poll from Amárach Research. The survey posed the question: Who would you prefer to see as the next leader of Fine Gael?

The results revealed:

■ Leo Varadkar on 35pc;

■ Simon Coveney on 23pc;

■ Richard Bruton on 6pc;

■ Simon Harris on 2pc;

■ Other on 8pc;

■ Don't knows on 26pc.

It's hardly a ringing endorsement of Mr Harris's leadership credentials. Nor is it a valediction of the performance of the other candidates in the field.

What the public wants is for these ministers to focus on their jobs rather than eyeing up other opportunities.


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