Irishman Simon Harris is elected the youngest Prime Minister in history after the sudden resignation of his predecessor.

Simon Harris on Tuesday became Ireland's youngest prime minister in history and pledged to bring “new ideas, new energy and new empathy to public life”.

Harris, 37, succeeds his Fine Gael colleague Leo Varadkar, who announced his resignation almost three weeks ago, and takes the reins of a government which faces intense criticism for its handling of the shortage of housing, rising crime, the cost of living, as well as its mass immigration policy, which has caused Ireland's non-national population to skyrocket, placing it fourth in the Union European, according to Eurostat.

Harris was elected Prime Minister, known as Taoiseach, by 88 votes to 69 in Ireland's main house, Dáil Éireann, where he gained the support of some independent lawmakers, as well as his coalition partners in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party. The three parties have shared power since 2020 and their mandate will end in approximately 12 months.

“Now is the time to build a new social contract – one that renews our promise as a Republic,” Harris told the Dáil. “Creating equality of opportunity. Supporting those who need the state most. Protecting our hard-earned economic success. Using its profits to produce tangible results for society.”

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Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris

Ireland's new Prime Minister Simon Harris is greeted by colleagues and family members as he leaves the Dail in Dublin on Tuesday. (Paul Faith/AFP via Getty Images)

He is committed to being a Prime Minister for all and helping to improve the lives of everyone in the country.

“Irish history is a story of hope and optimism. Once again, we must ensure that it lights our way. Let us not make the mistake of giving in to pessimism and despair about our future .

“We can and must rise above partisan politics by working together to solve the greatest challenges of our time. People expect us to do more. We should not demand less of ourselves.”

At Fine Gael's annual conference on Saturday, Harris explained his focus was on law and order, helping small businesses and reconnecting with rural voters. He also pledged to solve the housing crisis “once and for all” – something his predecessors also promised – by proposing an extension of support for developers and first-time buyers while recognizing that the necessary increase in housing The supply would take years.

Harris is due to announce a reshuffle of his Fine Gael team – which represents seven of the 18 cabinet seats – on Tuesday. Additionally, more than 10 Fine Gael lawmakers have said they will not stand in the election.

Biden and Varadkar at the White House

Simon Harris replaces Leo Varadkar, pictured here with President Biden last month. (AP Photo/Stéphanie Scarbrough)

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The Liberal government is seeking to recover after two Harris-backed constitutional amendments were struck down in a referendum. The amendments would have broadened the definition of family and removed language regarding the role of the housewife.

Harris's rise to office comes as protests against the construction of migrant centers in small towns and villages occur weekly, while a new hate speech bill, which has attracted attention international, is at a standstill in Parliament. Meanwhile, the number of homeless people in Ireland reached 13,531 in January, a new record.

Harris was first elected to Parliament at age 24 and appointed to cabinet before he was 30, a remarkable political rise. He is a year younger than Varadkar when he was first appointed prime minister in 2017.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris and President Higgins

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris, right, receives the seal of office from Irish President Michael D. Higgins on Tuesday. (Damien Storan/PA Images via Getty Images)

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He was previously Minister of Health, when he successfully passed legislation to reduce alcohol consumption by imposing legal minimum prices on alcohol and restrictions on advertising, while he was praised for having taken control of Ireland's early response to the pandemic.

However, he has been criticized for his handling of the cervical cancer scandal after several women received incorrect smear results and for soaring costs at the yet-to-be-built National Children's Hospital. He survived a motion of censure on the latter.

He was also the minister who oversaw the legalization of abortion in Ireland in 2018, which allowed abortion in specified circumstances.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, leader of the country's main opposition party, said Harris' election did not represent change and she called for a general election.

“Congressman Harris proposes and represents more of the same. He served in the cabinet for eight years, presiding over the very policies that led to a collapse in homeownership and skyrocketing rents,” McDonald said.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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