Simon Harris front-runner to succeed Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach

Simon Harris front-runner to succeed Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach

SIMON HARRIS is currently the front-runner to succeed outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as Fine Gael party leader.

Nominations for the new leader opened this morning but a number of ministers viewed as potentials for the top job quickly ruled themselves out of a leadership contest.

Helen McEntee, Heather Humphreys and Paschal Donohoe have today confirmed they are not putting themselves into the race, while Humphreys and McEntee have further stated they will support Mr Harris in his bid to become leader.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announces his resignation as both Taoiseach and Party Leader of Fine Gael, flanked by cabinet ministers Simon Harris, Simon Coveney and Heather Humphreys

Yesterday Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, ruled himself out of the competition, stating he made a "decision quite some time ago that he wouldn't stand in another leadership contest".

“I had my chance and wasn't successful the last time, I think there's a lot of talent in the party,” he added.

Wicklow TD Mr Harris has yet to formally announced himself as a candidate for the leadership, but is expected to do so today.

The 37-year-old is currently Ireland’s Minister for Further & Higher Education, Research, Innovation & Science. If elected the new party leader, he would become Ireland’s youngest ever taoiseach.

Simon Harris is currently Ireland's Minister for Further and Higher Education

Nominations opened at 10am this morning and will close on Monday, March 25 at 1pm. If there is to be a contest the winner will be announced on April 5.

Mr Varadkar pledged his unequivocal support for his successor during a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting last night, he has also confirmed that he will remain a TD for his Dublin West Constituency,

"I will, of course, continue to fulfil my duties as Taoiseach until a new Taoiseach is elected and will remain as a constituency TD for Dublin West,” he said yesterday in his resignation statement, where he stated he was leaving the tole for “personal and political” reasons.

"I know, inevitably, there will be speculation as to the ‘real reason’ for my decision,” he added.

“These are the real reasons. That’s it. I have nothing else lined up or in mind. No definite personal or political plans, but I am looking forward to having the time to think about them.”