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From mistaken ‘schoolboy’ on tour to TikTok Taoiseach Simon Harris

By PA News

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The Irish Parliament erupted in laughter when a Government minister admitted she mistook the now Taoiseach, Simon Harris, for a member of a school tour in his early days as a TD.

When Heather Humphreys first saw Mr Harris in the Dail in 2011, she thought the “young lad” was on a tour or doing work experience in Leinster House.

Years after the “schoolboy error”, the Cavan TD was happy to propose the fresh-faced Fine Gael leader as Taoiseach.

The day’s proceedings in the Dail were described as something akin to a “jamboree”, with references to Star Wars, The Who, a lot of eye-rolling and a slip by the environment minister that the Government was only “warming up” on its climate change policies.

Taoiseach Simon Harris with his wife Caoimhe and children Cillian and Saoirse in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)
Taoiseach Simon Harris with his wife Caoimhe and children Cillian and Saoirse in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)

While there was no hint by the new leader of his announcement that the country “ain’t seen nothing yet”, People Before Profit’s Mick Barry described Mr Harris’ new tenure as more comparable to the 1970s’ song Won’t Get Fooled Again by The Who.

The song, Mr Barry reminded the Dail, ends with the line “Meet the new boss; Same as the old boss.”

Outside the Dail, the now commonplace ring of steel was set up around the entrance to Leinster House, with layers of barriers and garda security to manage any protests.

In the building behind the beefed-up security, TDs waited for proceedings to get under way.

Green party leader Eamon Ryan and his colleague Catherine Martin were among the first ministers in the Dail.

Simon Harris talks to Tanaiste Micheal Martin in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)
Simon Harris talks to Tanaiste Micheal Martin in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)

Meanwhile, Ms Humphreys, who attended her daughter’s wedding last weekend, was joined by Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Catherine Martin, both smiling as Ms Humphrey shared something on her phone.

At about 10.15am, Mr Harris entered the Dail chamber alone. He was greeted by Fine Gael colleague Fergus O’Dowd, who shook his hand before chatting for a number of minutes.

The Taoiseach, with Tanaiste Micheal Martin, wore a purple rose pin for Cystic Fibrosis, which marks its national 65 Roses fundraising day on Friday.

As official proceedings got under way, sitting behind Mr Harris in the gallery were his wife, Caoimhe and their two children Saoirse, five, and Cillian, two, as well as his brother, Adam and sister, Gemma, his parents Bart and Mary and his beloved nana.

He credits his brother Adam, who has autism, for being his catalyst into politics, after he spent his teenage years campaigning for better services for people with autism in his area.

This springboard led him to where he is today.

In his last speech in Government, Leo Varadkar said he was proud of his record in office and also paid tribute to Simon Coveney on his last day in Government.

A number of TDs murmured in agreement as Mr Varadkar appealed for politicians to become better at disagreeing with each other.

After concluding his speech, half of the House got to their feet and applauded the country’s 15th taoiseach.

When Sinn Fein whip Padraig Mac Lochlainn said Mr Harris’ nomination was not agreed by the opposition, and called instead for a general election, members of the Government parties replied “read the Constitution”.

A few seats over on the opposition benches, People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett described the proceedings as a “jamboree”, which led to a scolding from the Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail.

Simon Harris in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)
Simon Harris in the Dail Chamber (Maxwell Photography/PA)

“People want an election”, echoed throughout the chamber as opposition TDs attempted to disrupt the nomination proceedings.

Fine Gael TD Peter Burke nominated Mr Harris to be the third taoiseach of the 34th Government of Ireland.

Mr Harris smiled as the Longford TD mentioned Mr Harris’ wife and two children.

Later, as Mr Ryan spoke about the Government’s record on housing, one unnamed TD shouted at Mr Ryan to “go on back to sleep”.

And while speaking about fighting climate change, Mr Ryan’s remark that “we are only warming up” led to some laughter.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the Dail should go before the people and get a mandate, to which some Sinn Fein TDs shouted “more of the same”.

Over to the Labour party, and its leader Ivana Bacik said Simon’s “new energy” sounded like a Star Wars tagline.

After the count of the votes, Mr Harris was nominated as the Dail’s Taoiseach with the backing of 88 TDs, and the same half the House got to their feet again to welcome the new “TikTok” Taoiseach.

The Ceann Comhairle formally welcomed the Harris family, with Cillian waving and clapping and shouting for his daddy several times.

Rapturous TDs from the Government parties welcomed the self-dubbed “Taoiseach for all”.

TDs and Senators formed a line on the steps of the Leinster House entrance as Mr Harris shook every outstretched hand before climbing into the Taoiseach’s car and making a swift exit to President Michael D Higgins’s official residence.

Simon Harris meets the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins (Damien Storan/PA)
Simon Harris meets the President of Ireland Michael D Higgins (Damien Storan/PA)

The Aras an Uachtarain offered a moment of calm among the hustle and bustle of the day.

As Mr Higgins presented Mr Harris with his Warrant of Appointment and Seal of Office, the Taoiseach looked to his family for a moment of reassurance.

Once the official proceedings ended, Mr Harris stayed for some refreshments and spoke to Mr Higgins and his wife, Sabina, for about half an hour.

Leaving the Aras, Mr Harris shook the president’s hand and hugged Sabina before making his way back to Leinster House, where the hard work starts.

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