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Leo Varadkar resignation: Who could be Ireland’s next Taoiseach? | World News

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After Leo Varadkar’s surprising resignation this morning as Ireland’s prime minister, the question has quickly turned to who will take his place.

Fine Gael will now organise a vote to select a new party leader at its annual conference on 6 April, and the chosen candidate will then be nominated for Taoiseach after the Dail – the Irish parliament – returns from its Easter break.

Here are the main contenders to take the top job.

Simon Harris

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris arriving for a cabinet meeting in Avondale House, Co. Wicklow. Picture date: Wednesday September 6, 2023.
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Harris was credited with steering Ireland through strict lockdowns as minister for health. Pic: PA

Minister for higher education Simon Harris became a prominent face during the COVID pandemic when he was credited with steering Ireland through strict lockdowns as minister for health.

But he also suffered scandals during his four-year tenure as health minister including the CervicalCheck scandal in which more than 200 women developed cervical cancer after inaccurate screening tests.

The 37-year-old would beat Mr Varadkar‘s record as the youngest-ever Taoiseach.

Simon Coveney

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney, arrives for the state funeral of former taoiseach John Bruton at Saints Peter's and Paul's Church in Dunboyne, Co Meath. Picture date: Saturday February 10, 2024
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Coveney helped consolidate Ireland’s soft power in Europe and the US to prevent a hard border with Northern Ireland. Pic: PA

Simon Coveney, 51, will be familiar to British politics after his term as minister for foreign affairs between 2017 and 2022.

He was a prominent figure in the post-Brexit negotiations and is credited with consolidating Ireland’s soft power in Europe and the US to prevent a hard border with Northern Ireland.

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‘I’m not the best person for the job’

He is currently the minister for enterprise, trade and employment and was also Mr Varadkar’s deputy prime minister during most of his first stint as Taoiseach between 2017 to 2020.

Mr Coveney lost to Mr Varadkar in the 2017 Fine Gael leadership contest. The Cork TD – member of parliament – won the majority of the party membership vote but lost the overall vote as only 22 parliamentary party members backed him in comparison to 51 supporting Mr Varadkar

Helen McEntee

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee speaking to the media during a press conference at the Department of Taoiseach in Dublin. Picture date: Tuesday March 5, 2024.
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McEntee could become the youngest-ever Taoiseach and Ireland’s first-ever female leader. Pic: PA

If successful Helen McEntee, also 37, would not only be the youngest Taoiseach but also Ireland’s first-ever female leader.

However, as minister for justice since 2020 she has faced a series of problems, including criticism of her handling of the Dublin riot in November in which Irish police were overpowered on the capital’s streets for several hours.

Analysis: There were signs Varadkar planned to step down

Paschal Donohoe

File photo dated 15/08/23 of Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe speaking to the media in the Government Buildings, Dublin. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has downplayed the possibility of Paschal Donohoe leaving government to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Issue date: Sunday December 31, 2023.
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Donohoe is the minister for public expenditure and president of the Eurogroup. Pic: PA

Paschal Donohoe, 49, was the minister for finance and is now the minister for public expenditure for a second time.

He is also president of the Eurogroup, the collective of eurozone finance ministers.

The Dublin TD had been tipped to head up the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC but the serving managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, now looks set to stay in the job for a second term.

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