Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar resigns

Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar resigns

In a surprise move, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced his resignation from the position and his role as leader of the governing Fine Gael party at a press conference in Dublin on Wednesday.

Varadkar, who has served two terms as taoiseach, or prime minister, said his decision was based on “both personal and political” reasons. He emphasized that his departure does not automatically trigger a general election, and he expects to be replaced by his successor as Fine Gael leader.

“One part of leadership is knowing when the time has come to pass on the baton to somebody else, and then having the courage to do it,” Varadkar said in an emotional statement. “That time is now. So I am resigning as president and leader of Fine Gael effective today and will resign as taoiseach as soon as my successor is able to take up that office.”

Varadkar, 45, expressed confidence in the current three-party coalition government’s ability to be reelected and gain seats in the next Dáil, Ireland’s parliament, BBC News reported. However, he believes a new taoiseach and leader will be better positioned to achieve that goal.

“After careful consideration and some soul-searching, I believe that a new taoiseach and a new leader will be better placed than me to achieve that – to renew and strengthen the team, to focus our message on policies, to drive implementation,” he said. “And after seven years in office, I don’t feel I’m the best person for that job anymore.”

Varadkar, who has an Irish mother and an Indian father, made history as the country’s youngest taoiseach and the first openly gay person to hold the office when he was first elected in 2017. He served until 2020 and then returned to the position in December 2022.

“I’m proud that we have made the country a more equal and more modern place,” Varadkar said.

When asked if the recent double referendum on the constitution, widely seen as a botched campaign, had been “the last straw” for his premiership, Varadkar did not directly respond. The government suffered a crushing defeat in the vote, which had proposed rewording the 1937 constitution to change outdated references to family and women.

Critics accused Varadkar of rushing the debate in a “gimmicky” attempt to hold the referendums on International Women’s Day. In the aftermath of the result, Varadkar accepted some responsibility for the fiasco, saying, “There are a lot of people who got this wrong and I am certainly one of them.”

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