Leo Varadkar announces he is stepping down as Ireland’s PM

Varadkar was the country’s youngest-ever leader when first elected, as well as Ireland’s first openly gay Prime Minister

Updated - March 20, 2024 06:26 pm IST

Published - March 20, 2024 05:51 pm IST - DUBLIN

 Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. File.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. File. | Photo Credit: AP

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says he will step down as leader of the country soon as a successor is chosen.

Mr. Varadkar announced on March 20 he is quitting immediately as head of the center-right Fine Gael party, part of Ireland’s coalition government. He’ll be replaced as prime minister after a party leadership contest.

He said his reasons were “both personal and political” and he had no firm future plans. He said he plans to remain in parliament as a backbench lawmaker.

Mr. Varadkar (45) has had two spells as Taoiseach, or Prime Minister — between 2017 and 2020, and again since December 2022.

He was the country’s youngest-ever leader when first elected, as well as Ireland’s first openly gay Prime Minister. Mr. Varadkar, whose mother is Irish and father is Indian, was also Ireland’s first biracial Taoiseach.

He played a leading role in campaigns to legalize same-sex marriage, approved in a 2015 referendum, and to repeal a ban on abortion, which passed in vote in 2018.

“I’m proud that we have made the country a more equal and more modern place,” he said in a resignation statement in Dublin.

Varadkar has faced growing discontent within Fine Gael. Ten of the party’s lawmakers, almost a third of the total, have announced they will not run for re-election.

Earlier this month, voters rejected the government’s position in referendums on two constitutional amendments. Changes backed by Mr. Varadkar that would have broadened the definition of family and removed language about a woman’s role in the home were resoundingly defeated. The result sparked criticism that the pro-change campaign had been lackluster and confusing.

Mr. Varadkar recently returned from Washington, where he met President Joe Biden and other political leaders as part of the Irish prime minister’s traditional St. Patrick’s Day visit to the United States.

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