Ireland's governing Fine Gael elects Leo Varadkar as new leader

Ireland is one step closer to having a new prime minister, as Leo Varadkar, a doctor and Ireland's current Minister for Social Protection, was named the new leader of Ireland's ruling Fine Gael party on June 2.

Varadkar, 38, will officially take over as Taoiseach, as the Irish prime ministerial title is known in Ireland, in Parliament later this month after he was declared the victor in the leadership race for the Fine Gael party.

Varadkar was born and raised in Dublin to mother, Miriam, a nurse originally from Waterford in Ireland and father, Ashok, a doctor from Mumbai, India.

He made headlines when he came out publicly on RTÉ as Ireland prepared to vote on marriage equality in a referendum in 2015.

"Speaking after the final votes were tallied in Dublin, Varadkar said he was delighted, humbled and honoured to win", the newspaper reports.

Irish PM Enda Kenny resigned as head of the governing Fine Gael party, putting Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney in the leadership race.

In mid May, Kenny retired as leader of Fine Gael under pressure from both inside and outside of the party.

The generational shift from Kenny, 66, who led the party for 15 years and has been prime minister since 2011, will likely be matched with Varadkar's cabinet choices.

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If my election shows anything it's that prejudice has no hold in this Republic. At the time, he said: "It's not something that defines me".

With Dublin's Mansion House packed to the rafters with party members, councillors, TDs and senators - and with both local and global media looking on - Varadkar said his personal story shows that every child in this country can dream big.

"He's a once-in-a-generation politician", said Fine Gael member of parliament Jim Daly, echoing the comments of most of his colleagues who have placed high hopes in Varadkar. That led one of Varadkar's opponents to label his backers as "choreographed choirboys singing for their support".

Socially liberal and economically conservative, Varadkar has irked the left in parliament by stressing personal responsibility over state intervention.

Leo Varadkar in an interview said, "I'm not counting my chickens".

Fine Gael is a center-right Christian Democratic party. The popular minister has campaigned on same-sex marriage and liberalising abortion laws.

Back in 2012, the group Keep Ireland Pro-Life reported that Varadkar is pro-life himself, quoting him as saying, "I would accept a lot of Catholic social teaching".

  • Marjorie Miles