We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Trinity College Dublin Alamy Stock Photo
Simon's Place

Students gave us their take on Harris's time at Higher Ed (and what they make of his promotion)

The lack of accommodation was unsurprisingly the main talking point for students.

IN JUST UNDER two weeks, at 37 years of age, Simon Harris is set to become the youngest Taoiseach this country has ever seen. 

The Taoiseach-to-be’s use of social media has meant he has successfully fostered a level of name recognition other members of the Oireachtas could only dream of.

It has also, unsurprisingly, opened the door to him (rather unfortunately) being dubbed the ‘TikTok Taoiseach’ in some quarters.

We wanted to know what young people think about the soon-to-be leader of the country and if he really has been as impactful on TikTok with young people as we think.

So, The Journal hit Trinity College this week to chat to students. Here’s what they told us.

‘I see him all the time’

Ellen, a Sociology and Irish student in Trinity told The Journal that, in her view, Simon Harris is the most well-known politician.

“I see him all the time, he’s always on my TikTok,” she said.

Spoiler: this was a sentiment repeated by all of the students we spoke to.

When asked what she thinks about him becoming Taoiseach, Ellen said she got the impression that no one really wanted the job after Leo Varadkar announced he was stepping down and that Simon Harris was the most obvious choice. 

Does she think his age means that he is best placed to understand and fix the problems facing young people? 


He seems to have an interest in listening to what younger people want and I’ve noticed that he tries to be cool and down with the kids – so maybe.

“I don’t know if he will actually pull through but I think that would be his aim,” Ellen said.

Harris has been Minister for Further and Higher Education for almost four years now. 

When asked what impact he has had in this role, all of the students The Journal spoke to said it was the reduction in fees that stands out most to them.

Following last year’s Budget, Minister Harris announced that third-level students would be reimbursed €1,000 of their student contribution fee for the academic year. 

On top of this, Ellen said her view was that more generally she feels he has tried to make it easier for people to go to college and third level education.

On the flip side, when asked what areas they would like to see more support from the Government in, all of the students The Journal spoke to said housing. 

Accommodation crisis

Sophia, who is a Political Science and Sociology student, told us that she lives in private student accommodation and pays €1100 a month in rent.

Ellen pays the same and added: “We’ve both in a privileged situation where we are able to pay for that but I don’t know how other people do it”.

“We’re sharing a kitchen with 8 people,” Ellen said. 

“And we don’t have a dishwasher… My walls aren’t done…I can hear my neighbour all the time, snoring next door,” Sophia added. 

Darragh, an engineering student, told The Journal that he commutes from Navan every day – which takes about an hour and fifteen minutes each way. 

He said he lived in Dublin for his first year of college but had to move back home because of the cost. For him, the fee reduction brought in by Harris has been a big help.  

Another group of three students that we spoke to, who prefered not to share their names, told us that they get the impression that Simon Harris actually cares about students. 

All three students commute to college and said housing is the biggest problem for them at the moment.

One of the three, an English student, commutes from Greystones – in Simon Harris’ constituency. 

“He used to come to my school. He would have come to my secondary school in Bray. He just seems lovely,” he said. 

He added: “He has quite a presence online.”

“I like the way he is one of the only people saying the Leaving Cert isn’t the only route. He always talks about apprenticeships and saying that the [Leaving Certificate] points system is useless,” one of the young women said. 

Her friend added: “I don’t know many politicians but he is one of the only ones I know.”

“I think he comes across well meaning and I think it is good to have someone young going into the job,” she said. 

Despite all of the praise for Harris, the conversation turned to the shortage of housing again. 

Her friend, who is an Art History student, said that she knows that if she wants to do a masters after her undergraduate degree that she will have to do it abroad because of the housing crisis. 

“I couldn’t afford to live here. I live at home now but if I didn’t live at home I wouldn’t be able to study in Dublin,” she said.

‘Prices are insane’

Dara, a medicine student, and Eimear, an engineering student are both in the third year of their studies.

Like the others we spoke to, housing is the big challenge facing them at the moment. 

Eimear also said she wants to see more done to make certain educational pathways – like engineering – more accessible, particularly for women and girls. 

“I went to an all girls school and I felt like it wasn’t really promoted. I wasn’t made aware of grants and that sort of thing, which probably comes down to counsellors in school,” she said. 

Both Eimear and Dara have moved out of their family homes to attend college. 

Dara said: “Last year it was a big stress trying to find where to live. You’re just trawling through Daft and there’s nothing.

Prices are insane and no one wants to rent to students either.”

The two students shared a room last year in a two-bedroom house with friends in Rathmines, just outside the city centre. 

They paid €500 each per month to share the room with bills on top of this.

“I wouldn’t even call it a house to be honest,” Dara said.

On whether Simon Harris gets the challenges facing young people, the pair agreed with each other “maybe more than other candidates”. 

“I wouldn’t be hugely into politics, but I always see him on social media,” Dara said.

On what she makes of the videos: “I appreciate the effort he makes to stay in tune with the younger generation.” 

Eimear added that she likes how he makes himself accessible to younger people and that he takes the mystery out of politics. 

It’s clear that Harris’ use of social media has paid dividends for him, but whether he will now be able to deliver for these students in his new job, time will tell. 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel