Simon Harris (politician)

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Simon Harris

Simon Harris (official portrait) (cropped).jpg
Minister for Health
Assumed office
6 May 2016
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Leo Varadkar
Preceded byLeo Varadkar
Minister of State at the Department of Finance
In office
15 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
TaoiseachEnda Kenny
Preceded byBrian Hayes
Succeeded byEoghan Murphy
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
February 2011
ConstituencyWicklow
Personal details
Born (1986-12-17) 17 December 1986 (age 32)
Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland
NationalityIrish
Political partyFine Gael
Spouse(s)Caoimhe Wade (m. 2017)
Children1
Alma materDublin Institute of Technology
Websitesimonharris.ie

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

Harris was born in Greystones, County Wicklow. He initially studied Journalism and French, at the Dublin Institute of Technology, before dropping out of his course to pursue politics full-time.[4] 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 then 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.[5]

Early life[edit]

Harris was born in Greystones, County Wicklow, the eldest of three children born to Bart and Mary Harris.[6][7] A great-uncle of his was a Councillor in Dún Laoghaire.[8] 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 autism spectrum disorders 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.[9]

Early political career[edit]

Harris began working as an assistant to his future cabinet colleague Frances Fitzgerald in 2008, when she was a member of Seanad Éireann.

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 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.[10] As the youngest deputy in the 31st Dáil, he was selected by Fine Gael to nominate Enda Kenny for Taoiseach, making his 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.[11][12] 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.[13] 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.[14]

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 over-crowding 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.[15] 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.[16] The planned strikes were later called off.

In 2016, Harris also contributed to the "A Healthy Weight for Ireland – Obesity Policy and Action Plan 2016 - 2025". A policy outlining "the Government's desire to assist its people to achieve better health, and in particular to reduce the levels of overweight and obesity". Harris claims that "the approach taken in developing this policy was based on the Government framework for improved health and wellbeing of Ireland".

In 2017, Harris was accused of "practising hypocrisy" over his stance on the Sisters of Charity's controversial ownership of the National Maternity Hospital.[17] The controversy saw the resignations of Dr. Peter Boylan and Prof. Chris Fitzpatrick, from the board of the hospital.[18][19] 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.

Harris supported the legalisation of abortion in Ireland, and introduced the Health (Regulation of Termination of Pregnancy) Act 2018 into Dáil Éireann on 27 September 2018.

On 20 February 2019, Simon Harris survived a motion of no-confidence in his duties as Minister for Health, over his handling of the new National Children's Hospital rising costs (over €2 billion[20][21]). The motion was voted down by 58 votes to 53 with 37 abstentions.[22][23][24]

Personal life[edit]

Harris suffers from Crohn's disease.[25] In 2017, he married Caoimhe Wade, a cardiac nurse.[26]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "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. ^ "Simon Harris as Minister for Health: the challenge awaits". www.irishtimes.com. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  5. ^ "Frances Fitzgerald is Tánaiste in new Cabinet". RTÉ News. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  6. ^ "Siblings celebrate in style". Bray People. 25 October 2007. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Harris celebrates his 30th birthday". Bray People. 22 October 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  8. ^ Cullen, Paul (17 May 2016). "Simon Harris as Minister for Health: the challenge awaits". Irish Times. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  9. ^ Anderson, Nicola (25 February 2017). "The Icarus minister: How Simon Harris flew too high too soon". Irish Independent. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Meet your 76 new TDs". RTÉ News. 9 March 2011.
  11. ^ "Public Accounts Committee – Membership". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  12. ^ "Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform – Membership". Houses of the Oireachtas. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Simon Harris among new Ministers of State". RTÉ News. 15 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Cold snap to deepen weather misery as flood costs top €60m". Irish Independent. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  15. ^ Ó Cionnaith, Fiachra (30 December 2016). "Health minister Simon Harris criticises Siptu strike plans". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 15 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Hospital overcrowding record as 612 patients now on trolleys nationwide – INMO". Irish Independent. 3 January 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  17. ^ "Simon Harris accused of 'hypocrisy' for backing Sisters given previous stance". Irish Independent. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  18. ^ "Obstetrician Peter Boylan resigns in dispute over National Maternity Hospital". Irish Independent. 27 April 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  19. ^ "Senior doctor quits project board in support of Peter Boylan". Irish Independent. 28 April 2017. Retrieved 13 May 2017.
  20. ^ Flanagan, Pat; Quinn, Trevor (1 February 2019). "Massive €2bn overspend on National Children's Hospital could have been avoided". irishmirror. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  21. ^ Cullen, Paul. "National Children's Hospital set to be world's most expensive medical facility". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  22. ^ Regan, Mary (20 February 2019). "Minister for Health survives no-confidence vote".
  23. ^ "Harris survives vote after Dáil erupts in mudslinging contest". Independent.ie. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  24. ^ Thursday; February 21; Am, 2019-06:30 (21 February 2019). "Government put on 'notice to quit' as Harris narrowly survives no-confidence vote". www.irishexaminer.com. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  25. ^ O'Regan, Eilish (20 September 2016). "Crohn's sufferer Simon Harris hails camera that can be swallowed". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Minister for Health Simon Harris marries cardiac nurse". RTÉ News. 22 July 2017. Retrieved 18 October 2018.

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