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Simon Harris, the ‘TikTok Taoiseach,’ Is Ireland’s New Leader

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Following the shock resignation of Leo Varadkar, Simon Harris has been sworn in as the Republic of Ireland’s youngest Prime Minister on Tuesday.

Dubbed the “TikTok taoiseach” for his social media prowess, the 37-year-old Fine Gael party leader has swiftly climbed the political ranks to head up Ireland’s government. Fine Gael’s coalition partners, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, endorsed Harris to become Taoiseach.

But his premiere could be a short one, with a general election set to take place by the end of March 2025. He is seen as the Varadkar “continuity candidate” but Fine Gael has lost support amid a severe housing crisis and anti-immigrant backlash. The election could see the increasingly popular Irish left-wing nationalist party Sinn Féin win enough seats to form a government.

As Harris takes office, here’s what to know about the young leader. 

Why did Leo Varadkar resign?

On March 20, Leo Varadkar announced that he was resigning as Prime Minister and leader of the center-right Fine Gael party for “personal and political” reasons. Varadkar was blamed for two referendum blows in March, with Irish voters rejecting the government’s proposals to amend the constitution to include families not based on marriage and to change the wording around the role of women in the home.

In a press conference in Dublin, Varadkar, the first openly gay leader, said he would step back with immediate effect and added that he is “not the best person for the job anymore.”

Read More: Ireland's Leo Varadkar Brings New Spirit to Office

The move has been called a “political earthquake” by observers of Irish politics.

At 38, Varadkar had become the youngest Prime Minister when he took office in 2017. His first term lasted until 2020, but he returned to office in 2022 as part of a rotation agreement with Fianna Fáil.

Who is Simon Harris?

Simon Harris was born in October 1986 to a taxi driver and a teaching assistant for children with special education needs. He grew up in a coastal town in County Wicklow, south of Dublin. He is the eldest of three children, and his younger brother Adam is autistic. Harris as a teenager began lobbying local politicians for autism services and established an autism support group.

A former student at the Dublin Institute of Technology, Harris dropped out in his penultimate year to become a parliamentary assistant to Fine Gael Senator Frances Fitzgerald. He became county councilor aged 22, and was elected to Parliament at 24 years old. At 29, Harris served as the health minister, and since then he has held posts across further and higher education, innovation and science, and justice.

Harris married his long-term partner and children's cardiac nurse Caoimhe Wade. The couple live in Wicklow and have two young children together.

What are Simon Harris’ political stances?

Harris held the post of health minister when Ireland held its historic referendum to repeal the 1983 Eighth Amendment that outlawed abortion rights. Harris was an advocate for the 2018 repeal efforts that saw 66.4% of the Irish public vote to enshrine women’s right to an abortion.

That same year, Harris intervened to help the immigration case of Eric Zhi Ying Xue, a 9 year old boy who was facing deportation to China.

Harris has emphasized the importance of protecting the Northern Ireland peace process. He has called for closer relations with Britain, including trade. Much like his predecessor, Harris has also been vocal for the need for a ceasefire in Gaza.

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com