Ireland’s New Prime Minister
Yesterday, on June 14, Leo Varadkar became the new prime minister of Ireland. Varadkar took over as leader of Ireland’s center-right Fine Gael(United Ireland) party on June 2, clearing the way for him to succeed Enda Kenny as prime minister. Kenny, who retired, had led Fine Gael since 2002. At just 38 years old, Varadkar is the youngest prime minister (called the taoiseach <<TEE shok>> in Ireland) in the country’s history. Varadkar is unique in other ways too: he is Ireland’s first prime minister of Indian descent and the country’s first openly gay prime minister as well. Varadkar is now just one of two openly gay heads of government (Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg is the other).
Varadkar addressed the Dáil Éireann (Irish parliament) after the body voted to confirm him as prime minister, saying, “I’ve been elected to lead but I promise to serve. The government that I lead will not be one of left or right because those old divisions don’t comprehend the political challenges of today. The government I lead will be one of the new European center as we seek to build a republic of opportunity.” Varadkar then visited Áras an Uachtaráin, the president’s residence in Dublin, where President Michael Higgins officially confirmed Varadkar as prime minister.
Varadkar was born on Jan. 18, 1979, in Dublin. His father is from Mumbai, India, and has worked as a doctor in England and Ireland since the 1960’s. His mother is a nurse from southeast Ireland’s County Waterford. Born of mixed Hindu and Roman Catholic faiths, Varadkar was raised Catholic. He joined Fine Gael while studying at Trinity College Dublin, where he earned a medical degree in 2003. Varadkar became a general practitioner in 2010.
Varadkar entered local politics in 2004 and was elected to represent the Dublin West constituency in the Dáil in 2007. He was reelected as a member of parliament (called a teachta Dála, or TD) in 2011, and has since served successively as Ireland’s minister for transport, minister for health, and minister for social protection. In early 2015, Varadkar came out as gay, just a few months before Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage.