Groundbreaking Irish PM Abruptly Quits

Leo Varadkar was country's first openly gay and biracial taoiseach, as well as the youngest
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 20, 2024 10:15 AM CDT
Groundbreaking Irish PM Is Quitting
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar speaks at the EPP Congress in Bucharest, Romania, on March 7.   (AP Photo/Andreea Alexandru, File)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who made history as his country's first gay and first biracial leader, announced Wednesday that he'll step down within weeks once a successor is chosen. Varadkar said he's quitting immediately as head of the center-right Fine Gael party, part of Ireland's coalition government. He'll be replaced as prime minister in April after a party leadership contest. He said his reasons were "both personal and political" and that he had no firm future plans, reports the AP. NBC News calls it a "shock move," with an anonymous senior Irish official saying it would be "a bolt from the blue for the Irish public" that "throws everything up in the air."

Varadkar, 45, said he plans to remain in parliament as a backbench lawmaker. Varadkar has had two spells as taoiseach, or prime minister—between 2017 and 2020, and again since December 2022 as part of a job-share with Micheal Martin, head of coalition partner Fianna Fail. He was the country's youngest-ever leader when first elected, and with an Irish mother and Indian father, he was also Ireland's first biracial taoiseach. Varadkar 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 a vote in 2018. "I'm proud that we have made the country a more equal and more modern place," Varadkar said in a resignation statement in Dublin.

Earlier this month, voters rejected changes backed by Varadkar that would have broadened the definition of family and removed language about a woman's role in the home. The result sparked criticism that the pro-change campaign had been lackluster and confusing. Even so, his resignation wasn't widely expected. Martin, the current deputy prime minister, said he'd been "surprised, obviously, when I heard what he was going to do." Varadkar said he knew his departure would "come as a surprise to many people and a disappointment to some." "I know that others will, how shall I put it, cope with the news just fine—that is the great thing about living in a democracy," he said. (More Leo Varadkar stories.)

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