Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar announces resignation

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says he is stepping down as the leader of the governing Fine Gael party.

In the surprise announcement on Wednesday, Varadkar said he would also relinquish his role as prime minister as soon as a successor is chosen.

“I am resigning the presidency and leadership of Fine Gael and will resign as taoiseach [prime minister] as soon as my successor is able to take up that office,” Varadkar told reporters in Dublin.

He said he had asked for a new leader of the party to be chosen on April 6, allowing a new prime minister to be elected after parliament’s Easter break.

Varadkar, 45, said it was the right time for him to step aside.

“My reasons for stepping down now are personal and political, but mainly political,” he said without elaborating.

“I have nothing else lined up I have nothing in mind. I have no definite personal or political plans,” he added.

Varadkar has had two spells as 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.
When first elected as prime minister, Varadkar was the youngest person to hold the office, and the first gay prime minister of Ireland, a once-staunchly Catholic country.

Varadkar, whose mother is Irish and father is Indian, was also Ireland’s first biracial prime minister.

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

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

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 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 lacklustre and confusing.

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.

The next election must be called by early 2025.