Johnstown/Walterstown parish priest wishes nephew, Simon Harris ‘wisdom, prudence and right judgement’ in new role

Fr Michael Cahill, the parish priest of Johnstown/Walterstown and the uncle of Simon Harris, says he wishes the new Fine Gael leader “wisdom, prudence and right judgement” in his new role.

Next month Harris is expected to become the youngest taoiseach in the history of the State, succeeding Leo Varadkar.

After that he will embark on a new adventure in his life as leader of his party and country. An adventure that will be full of challenges and pitfalls.

Aged just 37, the FG leader already has had an eventful life in politics that has seen him assume some of the highest offices in the land including Minister for Health when he was just 29, the youngest ever. He also spearheaded the campaign that led to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

After Health he moved on take over as Minister for Future and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science and in that role was seen to be capable and innovative – but now he has to take on a completely different set of challenges in which he will need all the backing he can get – both spiritual and temporal.

“Obviously this is Holy Week and one of the great themes about Holy Week is authority and the nature of authority,” said Fr Cahill.

“St Paul said we are to pray for all those in authority and in that sense I just pray for Simon, I wish him wisdom, prudence and right judgement in his new role.”

Simon Harris is the son of Fr Michael Cahill’s sister Mary and her husband Bart. “I have three sisters and nine nieces and nephews and obviously I’m interested in all of their lives and careers but Simon is my eldest nephew; the eldest son of my elder sister,” explained Fr Michael.

Simon Harris grew up in a loving family and that, Fr Cahill’s adds, will be among his greatest strengths and allies, when it comes to grappling with the many difficult issues he will invariably have to deal with as the leader of the country and Fine Gael. Such strength may also be needed to deal with the kind of flak directed towards politicians these days on social media - and which has already forced some out of the sphere.

“I think his great position of strength, humanely speaking, is that he comes from a very united, secure and loving family. Mary and Bart have given him a great example, they are very caring and hard-working, his sister Gemma is a wonderfully supportive sister and then he has got a very devoted brother in Adam.

“So, yes, I would say his strength is in a good, secure, family background and he’s very attentive towards his grandmother – my mother (Ann) – visiting her and keeping in touch all the time.”

Simon Harris has also been part of some of the biggest days in Fr Cahill’s career as a churchman. “He came to my ordination as a deacon in Rome in 1996 and he had a wonderful time with my parents, his grandparents, he was very enthusiastic nine-year-old in Rome that year. He also served in my ordination mass in St Mary’s in Navan in August 1997. He assisted as an alter server to Bishop Smith,” added Fr Cahill.

“He was also here in Johnstown with his then fiancé Caoimhe for my 50th birthday which was longer ago than I would care to remember!”

Fr Cahill explained that while “the family is not at all political” there was a brother of his mother – John Daly – who served as a county councillor in Dun Laoghaire for many years. “That’s the only political connection as far as I know.”

Fr Cahill – who served in Kinnegad, Batterstown (Kilcloon parish) and Kilbeg before talking over as PP of the Johnstown/Walterstown parish – says that while he is greatly interested in the “social and moral issues” of the day he has “absolutely no party political views or opinions whatsoever.”

Fr Cahill also keeps various items of memorabilia relating to his nieces and nephews. Looking though them the other day he found an article relating to his nephew Simon.

“It was from the year 2000 when he was just 13 and he had just written a play called ‘On the Run’ and the headline in the paper, The Sunday People, said: ‘All the world’s a stage for playwright prodigy Simon’ so he has always been pretty much in the limelight.

“He also said in the newspaper article: ‘My mobile phone never stop ringing and I don’t know how many calls I’ve had today.’ So it’s a case of history repeating itself although many years later. Apparently he was a director, producer and manager of the play even then in 2000.”

Now Simon Harris, still a young man, is about to become a leader on the world stage himself.