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Simon Harris rules himself out but Frances Fitzgerald gearing up for Fine Gael leadership battle

The Minister for Health has put an end to speculation about his future.

Simon Harris Wont Run For Taoiseach Simon Harris Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Updated 9:15pm

MINISTER FOR HEALTH Simon Harris has definitively ruled himself out of the upcoming Fine Gael leadership battle, but Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald has said she “is seriously considering” entering the race.

Harris, who is aged just 30, had been seen in some quarters as something of a dark horse candidate, most especially after a message from Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan was leaked to the media which indicated Harris was interested in running.

“At present there is no vacancy and that’s a matter for the Taoiseach,” he told RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke this morning.

“But I’ve thought about this, I’m flattered to be asked but the time is not right for me.”

I’ve a very busy portfolio which I’m working very hard at and quite frankly I don’t have enough experience at present.

“I’m gaining an awful lot of experience in the role I’m working in, and that’s where I want my full focus to be, so I won’t be a candidate,” he added.

For some, the suggestion that Harris might run was seen as an implicit endorsement on his part of Housing’s Simon Coveney – given that the younger Harris could be seen to split support for Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar.

Now that he has officially ruled himself out, where his endorsement will now go is unclear. He denied that he had encouraged speculation that he might run for the leadership.

“I certainly didn’t encourage it. You know it came out by Whatsapp, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs clarified that was meant to be some sort of a joke,” Harris said.

I thought it was worth giving consideration too, we haven’t had a leadership change in 15 years in the Fine Gael party. I’m a member of the Cabinet and I’m ambitious for my party and I’m ambitious for our country and I want to play my part in relation to that.
But the vacancy hasn’t even come up yet, so at a very early stage I’m ruling myself out.

Harris added it would be “inappropriate” to give his support to any candidate at present.

“I serve at the pleasure of the Taoiseach, and the Taoiseach has not yet indicated his own intentions,” he added.

0666 Prevent Trafficking_90504632 Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

When asked to comment on her own position, Minister for Justice Fitzgerald said she was considering the matter “very seriously”.

She said: “The last time there was a Fine Gael election for leader, there were four candidates.

I think it’s very healthy for the party to have a very good debate heading up for the formal nomination of a new leader.

She added that while the topic was on her mind, she would wait until Enda Kenny steps down before making any definitive statement on the matter.

With reporting from Sean Murray

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