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Simon Harris likely to become Ireland’s next prime minister – as challengers drop out of race | World News

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Simon Harris has a clear path to becoming the new leader of Fine Gael – and taoiseach – after all the other frontrunners have dropped out of the race.

It comes a day after Leo Varadkar’s shock announcement that he was standing down as Fine Gael leader and would step aside as taoiseach once his successor is appointed.

Heather Humphreys, the social protection minister, and Jennifer Carroll, the minister of state, bother ruled themselves out on Thursday afternoon, paving the way for Mr Harris.

Justice minister Helen McEntee ruled herself out as a leadership candidate earlier on Thursday, as Fine Gael politicians began to publicly back Mr Harris, the minister for further and higher education.

If he was to take over from Mr Varadkar, Mr Harris would become the country’s youngest ever taoiseach at the age of 37, taking that title from his predecessor.

Fine Gael minister of state Patrick O’Donovan is among those who have thrown their support behind Mr Harris.

He said: “I think at the moment, where Fine Gael is, as we’re a year out from a general election, we have plenty of time, and plenty of scope to I think rebuild the organisation, refocus on the issues that are of importance to us and I think Simon is best placed to do that.”

Others include Fine Gael TD and junior minister Neale Richmond, TD and former junior minister Frank Feighan, senators Tim Lombard and Michael Carrigy and MEPs Frances Fitzgerald and Maria Walsh.

Enterprise minister Simon Coveney, who ran against Mr Varadkar in the last Fine Gael leadership contest, ruled himself out on Wednesday.

Mr Harris, was the early favourite with many bookmakers and had the backing of several politicians before nominations opened.

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