Metro Weekly

Ireland’s Gay Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, Resigns

The country's youngest and first openly gay prime minister steps down ahead of expected political losses in upcoming elections.

Leo Varadkar – Photo: MoneyConf, via Flickr

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s youngest, first openly gay, and first multiracial prime minister, announced on March 20 that he is stepping down from office.

Varadkar resigned as leader of the Fine Gael political party and will resign as prime minister — or taoiseach — once a successor is named. 

Standing on the steps of the Government Buildings in Dublin, the 45-year-old said he was stepping down for “personal and political” reasons, “but mainly political,” reported The Guardian.

“I believe this government can be re-elected,” Varadkar said. “I believe a new taoiseach will be better placed than me to achieve that — to renew and strengthen the top team, to refocus our message and policies, and to drive implementation. After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for that job.”

The announcement sent shockwaves through the Irish political establishment.

Varadkar’s resignation comes after Irish voters rejected two referenda, backed by his ruling coalition, to rework outdated language from its constitution about the role of women and defining families as units based on the institution of marriage, which proponents of the ballot measures claimed was discriminatory to unmarried couples.

Varadkar has struggled to respond to the country’s ongoing housing crisis, which coincided with a refugee crisis that strained public resources and led to a backlash against the coalition government.

According to The Guardian, his party, Fine Gael, is expected to suffer losses in council and European elections in June, as well as in a general election that must take place no later than March 22, 2025.

Varadkar, the son of an Indian immigrant and a trained medical doctor, is best known for his efforts to liberalize Ireland, with his Fine Gael minority government shepherding through a referendum, eventually approved by two-thirds of Irish voters, eliminating the country’s draconian ban on abortions.

Varadkar first entered politics in 2007, winning election to the Dáil, or Irish parliament, representing Dublin West.

He was an outspoken backbencher who supported more conservative policies like tax cuts and welfare reforms, eventually becoming minister for transport, tourism and sport, and later, the minister for health under Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael-led government. 

In 2015, Varadkar came out as gay, seeking to downplay the role his sexual orientation played in his life while at the same time providing an example of how an openly gay politician could succeed in a traditionally culturally conservative country.

Months later, he celebrated as Irish voters approved a referendum legalizing same-sex marriage.

After coming out, Varadkar used his position to bring up issues of LGBTQ rights with global leaders, pledging to discuss families headed by same-sex couples with Pope Francis, and remarking, in front of former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, a notorious LGBTQ rights opponent, that gay people should not be judged for their sexual orientation.

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