Harris' to-do list: Law and order, housing, immigration

James Cox

Simon Harris is set to be elected taoiseach on Tuesday, April 9th, and he will face a number of issues in his bid to make a mark with less than a year before a general election.

Providing the Coalition serves its full term, which Mr Harris and Tánaiste Micheál Martin have insisted it will, he will have until March 2025 before the next general election.

Here, we look at some of the challenges and policies facing the new taoiseach.

Cabinet makeup

There is unlikely to be a huge reshuffle when Mr Harris is named taoiseach, however, there are expected to be a number of significant changes.

Political sources have indicated Minister for Justice Helen McEntee may be at risk as Mr Harris may target a change after putting law and order at the top of his agenda.

The hate speech legislation has led to much debate, while Ms McEntee was criticised in the wake of the Dublin riots.

Mr Harris' Department of Further and Higher Education will have a vacancy for a ministerial role when he becomes taoiseach.

Names linked with this post include junior ministers Neale Richmond, Peter Burke and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney is the other senior figure who has been rumoured to be at risk of demotion. However, Mr Harris may choose to keep the former party deputy leader in his role to prevent any controversy early on in his tenure.

Beyond the mentioned posts, changes are likely to be at the junior ministerial level.

Law and order

Fine Gael has been known as a party of law and order in the past, and Mr Harris has indicated he wants to restore this reputation.

It has taken a blow due to events like the Dublin riots, whether that is fair or not, they were seen as weak on the rioters who wreaked havoc in the capital on November 23rd.

He is believed to be considering a number of new justice policies. The Irish Independent reported that these include a plan to bring in new minimum sentences for serious crimes, which could see criminals jailed for 20 years for some offences.


The housing crisis is not going to be solved in a year, but any progress on homes would give the Government and Fine Gael a huge boost.

Mr Harris is unlikely to deviate too much from the current Housing for All plan, but an effort to ramp up building could well be in the works.


Speaking at an Easter Rising commemoration on Sunday, Mr Harris said: “I'm very conscious of the challenges being felt by small businesses at the moment and very conscious around the cost of doing business in Ireland, particularly for small businesses around the country.

“I'm also conscious of a number of issues around crime and public safety and, obviously, the whole area of housing remains the biggest overriding priority for government and society.”


Mr Harris has said Ireland needs to move beyond an "emergency response" when it comes to immigration.

“We need to move beyond an emergency response to the immigrant situation, and try to get to a planned sustainable system,” Mr Harris said.

“Really, I see the two proposals being brought before my colleagues today as an important step in that direction. On the justice side recognising that this island needs to work with other European countries, recognising that there needs to be rules across the EU, recognising that we can be better when it comes to processing clients, that we give people a quicker answer, if they are to be integrated or if they need to leave.”

He was referring to new Cabinet proposals on immigration that will prevent the "last hotel" in towns being used for asylum seeker accommodation.

The Department of Integration has set a target of 14,000 State-owned beds by 2028 as part of a move away from full reliance on private providers.

Plans would also see Ireland opt into the EU Asylum and Migration pact.

Ms McEntee proposed the move, which would mean the State would commit to enhanced screening checks and a legally binding timeframe for application decisions.