Simon Harris (politician)

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Simon Harris
TD
Simon Harris 2012 (cropped).jpg
Minister for Health
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Leo Varadkar
Preceded by Leo Varadkar
Minister of State at the Department of Finance
In office
15 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Brian Hayes
Succeeded by Eoghan Murphy
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2011
Constituency Wicklow
Personal details
Born (1986-10-17) 17 October 1986 (age 30)
Greystones, Wicklow, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael
Spouse(s) Caoimhe Wade (m. 2017)
Alma mater Dublin Institute of Technology
Website Official website

Simon Harris (born 17 October 1986) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister for Health since May 2016. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 2011, currently for the Wicklow constituency. He previously served as Minister of State at the Department of Finance from 2014 to 2016.[1][2][3]

Harris was born in Greystones and studied Journalism and French at the Dublin Institute of Technology. His involvement in politics began in his teens when he established an autism support and lobby group in Wicklow. From 2008 he worked as an assistant to Senator Frances Fitzgerald. In 2009 Harris was elected to Greystones Town Council and Wicklow County Council and served on a number of local committees before his election to Dáil Éireann.

After an initial period on the backbenches as the Baby of the Dáil, Harris was promoted to the position of Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Public Procurement and International Banking in 2014

Following the formation of a Fine Gael minority government in May 2016, Harris was appointed to the cabinet as Minister for Health.[4]

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in Greystones, County Wicklow, the eldest of three children born to Bart and Mary Harris.[5][6] His family were largely apolitical, however, a great-uncle of his was a councillor in Dún Laoghaire.[7] Harris was educated at St. David's Secondary School in Greystones and first became involved in local politics as a fifteen-year-old when he set up the North Wicklow Triple A Alliance to help the families of children with Asperger's Syndrome, autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. As a Junior Certificate student he lobbied politicians to get better facilities to allow children with such disabilities to be integrated into mainstream education.[8]

Harris later studied a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and French at Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street.[9] Other sources suggest he failed to finish his degree as he wanted to advance his political career.[10]

Early political career[edit]

Harris began working as an assistant to his future cabinet colleague Frances Fitzgerald in 2008.

in 2009 Harris was elected to Wicklow County Council with the highest percentage vote of any county councillor in Ireland. He was simultaneously elected to Greystones Town Council.[3] As a county councillor he served as Chairperson of the County Wicklow Joint Policing Committee and Chairperson of the HSE Regional Health Forum. He was a member of Wicklow County Council's Housing Strategic Policy Committee and Wicklow Vocational Educational Committee.

Harris was elected to Dáil Éireann in 2011, taking the third seat in the Wicklow constituency.[11] As the youngest deputy, he was selected by Fine Gael to nominate Enda Kenny for Taoiseach, making an impressive maiden speech.

In spite of being a first-time backbench TD, Harris served as a member of the high-profile Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform.[12][13] He was also a member of the Oireachtas cross-party group on Mental Health and introduced the Mental Health (Anti-Discrimination) Bill 2013 in June 2013.

Harris ran unsuccessfully as a Fine Gael candidate in the South constituency for the 2014 European Parliament election.

In government[edit]

Minister of State[edit]

Harris was appointed to the top junior ministerial position as Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Public Procurement and International Banking on 15 July 2014.[14] During a period of intense flooding throughout the country during the winter of 2015 and 2016, Harris was forced to deny accusations that the government had left €13m in the budget for flood relief works in 2015 unspent while he had also secured funding for flood defences in his own constituency.[15]

Minister for Health[edit]

Harris was appointed to the cabinet on 6 May 2016 when he became Minister for Health. Some of the immediate problems facing him in his new post included overcrowding in emergency departments and long waiting lists as well as soaring demands and huge cost overruns.

In his first year in the job, Harris faced the possibility of 30,000 health workers and 40,000 nurses going on strike.[16] These developments occurred the same week that the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation announced that there had been a record 612 patients admitted for care on trolleys in hospitals around the country on the morning on 3 January 2017.[17] The planned strikes were later called off.

In 2017 Harris was accused of "practising hypocrisy" over his stance on the Sisters of Charity's controversial ownership of the National Maternity Hospital.[18] The controversy saw the resignations of Dr. Peter Boylan and Prof. Chris Fitzpatrick from the board of the hospital.[19][20] The Religious Sisters of Charity later relinquished ownership of three hospitals; St. Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin, St. Vincent's Private and St. Michael's.

Personal life[edit]

Harris suffers from Crohn's Disease.[21] In 2017 he married Caoimhe Wade, a cardiac nurse.[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Simon Harris". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Collins, Stephen (2011). Nealon's Guide to the 31st Dáil and 24th Seanad. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p. 185. ISBN 9780717150595. 
  3. ^ a b "Simon Harris". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 20 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Siblings celebrate in style". Bray People. 25 October 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  6. ^ "Harris celebrates his 30th birthday". Bray People. 22 October 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  7. ^ Cullen, Paul (17 May 2016). "Simon Harris as Minister for Health: the challenge awaits". Irish Times. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Nicola (25 February 2017). "The Icarus minister: How Simon Harris flew too high too soon". Irish Independent. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  9. ^ Donnelly, S. Elections 2011. p. 303. ISBN 9780952019787. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  10. ^ "Simon Harris as Minister for Health the Challenge Awaits". Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "Meet your 76 new TDs". RTÉ News. 9 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "Public Accounts Committee – Membership". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Membership". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 1 April 2014. 
  14. ^ "Simon Harris among new Ministers of State". RTÉ News. 15 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Cold snap to deepen weather misery as flood costs top €60m". Irish Independent. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  16. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (30 December 2016). "Health minister Simon Harris criticises Siptu strike plans". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 15 June 2017. 
  17. ^ "Hospital overcrowding record as 612 patients now on trolleys nationwide – INMO". Irish Independent. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  18. ^ "Simon Harris accused of 'hypocrisy' for backing Sisters given previous stance". Irish Independent. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  19. ^ "Obstetrician Peter Boylan resigns in dispute over National Maternity Hospital". Irish Independent. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017. 
  20. ^ "Senior doctor quits project board in support of Peter Boylan". Irish Independent. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017. 
  21. ^ O'Regan, Eilish (20 September 2016). "Crohn's sufferer Simon Harris hails camera that can be swallowed". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2017. 
  22. ^ https://www.rte.ie/news/2017/0721/892048-simon-harris/

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Dick Roche
(Fianna Fáil)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Wicklow
2011–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Brian Hayes
Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Public Procurement and International Banking
2014–16
Succeeded by
Eoghan Murphy
Preceded by
Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health
2016–present
Incumbent
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Lucinda Creighton
Baby of the Dáil
2011–16
Succeeded by
Jack Chambers