by GR | 3rd June 2017 9:22 am
Leo Varadkar is to become Ireland’s youngest and first openly gay Taoiseach. He defeated his rival for the Fine Gael leadership, Simon Coveney, in an internal party ballot today, replacing Enda Kenny who announced his retirement last month.
The Dublin West TD received the support of barely one in three of regular party members, but these count for only 25% of the votes needed to decide the party leader. He won largely thanks to key endorsements from senior party figures such as Frances Fitzgerald, Richard Bruton and Charlie Flanagan.
Aged just 38, the son of an Indian immigrant doctor made his ambitions clear from the very early age of seven, when he is said to have declared his intention to be Minister for Health.
After swiftly working his way up Fine Gael’s party hierarchy and serving three years as Minister for Transport, he took over that post for two years before moving to the Department of Social Protection last year.
He is reported to have been working on his leadership challenge for the last six years, methodically building relations with parliamentary colleagues while maintaining his career trajectory. In the contest for the Fine Gael leadership Mr Varadkar declared himself as the candidate for “people who get up early in the morning”, a statement aimed at winning the support of the mainly rural party membership.
While Minister Varadkar will replace Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader, Mr Kenny will remain as Taoiseach until he formally steps down and the Dail votes to accept his successor. That process is not likely to take place until at least June 13th, as the Dublin parliament is not scheduled to sit next week.
Confirmation of Varadkar as Taoiseach seems certain to go ahead after Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin confirmed his party is committed to maintaining their support for the minority coalition government, which is headed by Fine Gael.
In a statement, Martin said: “I look forward to meeting with the new Leader of Fine Gael […] I will be emphasising the need for renewed focus on executing and delivering the commitments in our three year agreement.”
Sinn Fein’s Gerry Adams called for an election following today’s results.
Mr Adams said: “I congratulate Leo Varadkar on his appointment as Fine Gael Leader. However his elevation to the position of Taoiseach is another matter entirely.
“For a party that has been preaching democracy to other parties for three weeks now the nature of this election has been very undemocratic.
Some 65% of the membership voted for Leo Varadkar’s opponent yet he managed to come through as the winner.
“Leo Varadkar is a Tory. Fine Gael will be dragged even further to right under his leadership and that can only mean further hardship for ordinary people.
“Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach will mean greater disadvantage. It will mean more people locked out of the housing market. It will mean the growth of precarious work and poverty wages. Ultimately, it will mean the widening of the gap between the rich and the poor.
“It is now over to Micheal Martin to see if he will become the first leader of Fianna Fail to elect two Fine Gael Taoisigh.
“The fact is that Leo Varadkar has no mandate to lead this state. In fact, he barely has a mandate to lead his party but that is up to them.
He represents only a minority of Fine Gael.
“He should call a general election immediately and seek a mandate from the people.
“Minister Varadkar’s expressed position in relation to Designated Special Status for the North is very positive and I hope he will now move to make this his party’s position and carry it into an election.”
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