Harris set to announce candidacy for Fine Gael leadership

Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris is expected to announce his candidacy for the leadership of Fine Gael later today.

Senior members of the party are due to declare their support for Mr Harris, who is regarded as the early front-runner for the post.

However, Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys have yet to clarify their positions.

The Fine Gael Executive Council decided last night that nominations to become the next party leader will open at 10am this morning and close next Monday at 1pm.

It is understood that Mr Harris will waste little time before declaring his candidacy to become the next leader of Fine Gael, with a slew of his party’s TDs, senators and MEPs lined-up to back him.

With the party’s deputy leader Simon Coveney ruling himself out yesterday, the focus of attention is on the intentions of Mr Donohoe and Ms Humphreys.

Leo Varadkar announced yesterday that he would be stepping down as Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach

Should Mr Donohoe throw his hat in the ring, it would be in the knowledge that, if successful, he would have to give-up his position as President of the Eurogroup – the collective of finance ministers from countries which adopted the euro currency.

If Ms Humphreys was successful, she would become the first female Taoiseach Ireland has ever had.

There have been calls from the Fine Gael Senator Regina Doherty and TD Fergus O’Dowd for an election to take place.

However, it is possible that there will only be one candidate should Mr Harris be viewed by rivals as having built-up an unassailable lead.

Candidates must be nominated by at least six members of the parliamentary party, which is comprised of TDs, Senators and MEPs.

The Council, which decides on the rules of the leadership election campaign, says before any votes are cast, three regional meetings will take place with candidates on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week.

Votes will be weighted in accordance with the Fine Gael electoral college rules: the 54 members of the parliamentary party account for 65% of the total vote; 20,000 party members accounting for 25%; and 249 local representatives account for the remaining 10% of the vote.

Voting for almost 20,000 eligible party members will take place nationwide at more than 20 polling stations from 2-4 April.

Party members must be affiliated for at least two years to be eligible to vote.

All votes will be brought to a national count centre on 5 April, where they will be verified and then counted.

The result will be officially announced at the count centre on 5 April.

Read more:
Analysis: Is the race to be Leo Varadkar’s successor over before it begins?

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