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Leo Varadkar’s Unexpected Resignation Shocks Ireland

Ireland’s Prime Minister, Leo Varadkar, has announced his resignation, citing “personal and political, but mainly political reasons,” in a surprising move.

Standing alongside his colleagues outside government buildings in Dublin on Wednesday, Varadkar stated that he no longer felt he was the “best man” for the job. He pledged to remain prime minister until a successor could be elected after parliament returns from recess next month.

Varadkar, who first assumed office in 2017 after being elected leader of the Fine Gael party, is the country’s youngest premier and Ireland’s first gay leader.

“I am resigning as president [of the party] and leader of Fine Gael effective today, and I will resign as taoiseach [the Irish prime minister] as soon as my successor is able to take up that office,” Varadkar said.

While acknowledging that his decision might come as “a surprise to many and a disappointment to some,” Varadkar emphasized that it was made in the best interests of the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Micheál Martin, leader of coalition partner Fianna Fáil, remarked that Varadkar was “entitled to take a decision of this kind,” although he labeled it as an “unprecedented” development.

Following Varadkar’s resignation, there will be a leadership contest within his party to determine his successor ahead of the party conference on April 6. Despite the government’s obligation to hold another general election before May 2025, Varadkar did not announce any plans to do so in his departure speech.

Varadkar’s first stint as prime minister ended in 2020 after a general election resulted in no party securing a majority. Following this, Fine Gael entered a coalition with the Fianna Fáil party, leading to Varadkar and Martin swapping the roles of prime minister and deputy. Varadkar resumed his position as Taoiseach in December 2022.

Varadkar’s resignation comes shortly after a notable trip to Washington, DC, during which he challenged President Joe Biden over the US response to the conflict in Gaza. Additionally, he has been grappling with several domestic controversies, including his government’s loss in two referenda on March 9, aimed at changing what is deemed “sexist” language in the constitution.

Criticism has also been directed at Varadkar over Ireland’s housing crisis and rising immigration numbers. Recently, there was backlash over his government’s handling of a tent village of asylum-seekers camped outside government offices. Reports emerged that the asylum-seekers were relocated to tented accommodation outside the city center, sparking accusations of attempting to conceal them from St. Patrick’s Day tourists.

Varadkar is likely to be remembered for his efforts to liberalize Ireland, particularly by easing the country’s strict anti-abortion laws.

The son of an Indian-born father and Irish mother, Varadkar initially pursued a career in medicine before entering the Irish parliament at the age of 27. In 2015, as the Minister of Health, Varadkar publicly disclosed his sexual orientation on Irish national radio, lending his support to the landmark Marriage Equality Bill, which legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland.

Addressing speculations surrounding the “real reason” for his resignation, Varadkar maintained on Wednesday that he had shared the genuine motivations behind his decision, adding that he currently has “nothing else lined up or in mind.”

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