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|Minister for Health|
Assumed office |
6 May 2016
|Preceded by||Leo Varadkar|
|Minister of State at the Department of Finance|
15 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
|Preceded by||Brian Hayes|
|Succeeded by||Eoghan Murphy|
Assumed office |
17 December 1986|
Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland
|Political party||Fine Gael|
|Spouse(s)||Caoimhe Wade (m. 2017)|
|Alma mater||Dublin Institute of Technology|
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.
Harris was born in Greystones, County Wicklow. He studied Journalism and French, at the Dublin Institute of Technology. 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.
Harris was born in Greystones, County Wicklow, the eldest of three children born to Bart and Mary Harris. His family were largely apolitical. A great-uncle of his was a Councillor in Dún Laoghaire. 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.
Harris later studied a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and French, at Dublin Institute of Technology, Aungier Street. Other sources suggest he failed to finish his degree as he wanted to advance his political career.
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. 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. As the youngest deputy in the 31st Dáil, he was selected by Fine Gael to nominate Enda Kenny for Taoiseach, making an impressive 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. 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 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. 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.
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 overcrowding 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. 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. 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. The controversy saw the resignations of Dr. Peter Boylan− and Prof. Chris Fitzpatrick, from the board of the hospital. 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.
| Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Wicklow
| Minister of State for the Office of Public Works, Public Procurement and International Banking
| Minister for Health
| Baby of the Dáil