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Who is Simon Harris, Ireland's new Prime Minister, also known as the “TikTok Taoiseach”?

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Harris told party members at the time that he would repay their faith with “hard work, with blood, sweat and tears, day after day with responsibility, with humility and with civility.”

Simon Harris was officially inaugurated at a ceremony alongside President Michael D. Higgins. Photo: AP

At a weekend conference afterwards, he promised to give his party new impetus, to “reboot” it and to refocus it on “fundamental values” such as promoting the economy, agriculture and law and order.

Harris' election as Taoiseach on Tuesday, as the Dail – Ireland's parliament – returned from recess, capped a meteoric rise.

Simon Harris has been appointed leader of Ireland's ruling Fine Gael party

He was born in 1986 and grew up in the small coastal town of Greystones near Dublin, the son of a taxi driver.

After a year, he dropped out of college studying journalism and French in Dublin to concentrate on an already promising political career.

Harris entered politics by advocating for services for his autistic younger brother and later founded a charity.

At the age of 16, he joined Fine Gael's youth wing and quickly rose through the party's ranks.

The 22-year-old district councilor was elected to Parliament in 2011 as a 24-year-old – at the time the youngest MP and given the title of “Baby of the Dail”.

He was appointed Health Minister in 2016 when he was just 29 years old.

Simon Harris poses for a photograph after being announced as the new leader of Fine Gael last month. Photo: Reuters

“In many ways my career has been a bit strange… life came at me much faster than I expected,” he told Hot Press magazine in a 2022 interview.

Harris served as health secretary for more than four years, including during the Covid pandemic – during which his communication skills were praised despite heavy criticism over nursing home deaths and occasional gaffes.

He can be a “terrible old idiot” at times, he said, after noting that Covid-19 refers to 18 previous coronaviruses and not the year it first emerged.

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Harris has also been embroiled in controversy over new hospital projects, while a threatened vote of no confidence from the opposition over overcrowding in wards prompted Varadkar to call a general election in 2020, which saw Fine Gael fall to third place.

Harris is a father of two and married to a cardiac nurse. His prominence on social media, particularly on TikTok, has made him one of Ireland's most visible politicians.

He has been Minister of Higher Education since 2020 and even critics admit that he has a talent for communication.

Irishman Leo Varadkar announced his retirement last month. Photo: Reuters

With 1.4 million likes on TikTok and hundreds of thousands of followers on X and Instagram, Harris posts content to his audience almost daily.

However, some of his videos and statements were seen as trying too hard to appeal to the younger generation.

During a stormy parliamentary committee meeting, Harris told the group: “Chillax – I think everyone needs to take a step back here.”

“All young people know what 'Chillax' is,” he said in Parliament the next day.

With his youth and strong communication skills, his opponents claim he is “Lion 2.0,” a continuation of a “metropolitan” style of politics under Varadkar that is out of touch with the broader electorate.

But for supporters, his enthusiasm could revitalize Fine Gael, which is still in third place in polls ten weeks before local and European elections and a year after the general election.

“He has enormous energy and great ambition,” a party colleague told the Irish Times newspaper.

“He’s cute, smart and clever,” said another