Leo Varadkar

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Leo Varadkar
HANDSHAKE 2016-07-14 (28303482095) (cropped).jpg
Minister for Social Protection
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Joan Burton
Minister for Health
In office
11 July 2014 – 6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by James Reilly
Succeeded by Simon Harris
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
In office
9 March 2011 – 11 July 2014
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Pat Carey (Transport)
Succeeded by Paschal Donohoe
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
June 2007
Constituency Dublin West
Personal details
Born (1979-01-18) 18 January 1979 (age 38)
Castleknock, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael
Domestic partner Matthew Barrett
Education The King's Hospital
Alma mater Trinity College
Website Official website

Leo Varadkar (Irish pronunciation: [ˈlʲoː ˈvˠaɾˠəd̪ˠkəɾˠ]; born 18 January 1979) is an Irish Fine Gael politician who has served as Minister for Social Protection since May 2016. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 2007, currently for the Dublin West constituency.

Varadkar was born in Dublin and studied Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. He spent several years as a junior doctor before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010. In 2004 he was co-opted onto Fingal County Council and served as deputy mayor before his election to Dáil Éireann. He was immediately promoted to the Front Bench by Enda Kenny as Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, remaining in this position until a 2010 reshuffle when he became Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

After the formation of the Coalition Government in March 2011, he was appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. A cabinet reshuffle in July 2014 saw Varadkar appointed to the position of Minister for Health. During his tenure he became the first openly gay Irish government minister.

Following the formation of a Fine Gael minority government in May 2016, he was appointed Minister for Social Protection.

Early life[edit]

Born on 18 January 1979 in the Rotunda Hospital in Parnell Square, Dublin, Varadkar is the youngest child and only son of Ashtok and Miriam Varadkar. His Mumbai-born father had moved to England as a doctor in the 1960s. His Dungarvan-born mother met her future husband while working as a nurse in Slough. Later they lived in Leicester, where the eldest of their three children, Sophie, was born. The family then moved to India, however, they settled in Dublin in 1973 before their second child, Sonia, was born.

Varadkar was educated at the St. Francis Xavier National School before attending the fee-paying Church of Ireland King's Hospital School in Palmerstown, where one of his classmates included Kathryn Thomas. It was during his secondary schooling that his political involvement began when he joined Fine Gael. At Trinity College, where he briefly studied law before switching to medicine, he was active in Young Fine Gael and served as vice-president of the Youth of the European People's Party, the youth wing of the Christian Democrat group.[1] He was also selected for the prestigious Washington Ireland Program, which prepares ambitious young people for future leadership roles. Varadkar graduated from the school of medicine in 2003 and spent several years working as a junior doctor in Connolly Hospital before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010.

Political career[edit]

Fingal County Council: 2003–2007[edit]

Varadkar was just twenty years-old and a second-year medical student when he contested the 1999 local elections in the Mulhuddart area. Polling just 380 first-preference votes and eliminated on the ninth count, he failed to be elected on that occasion.

On 13 October 2003, Varadkar was co-opted to Fingal County Council for the Castleknock area as a replacement for Sheila Terry. At the 2004 local elections he received the highest first-preference vote in the country with 4,894 votes and was elected on the first count.[2]

Dáil Éireann: 2007–present[edit]

Varadkar was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 2007 general election,[3] and became party spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2007–2010.[citation needed] At the 2011 general election, Varadkar was re-elected to Dáil Éireann with 8,359 first preference votes (a 19.7% share of the poll in a 4-seat constituency).[2]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport: 2011–2014[edit]

Fine Gael formed a coalition government with Labour and Varadkar was appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on 9 March 2011.[4] This was considered a surprise appointment as Varadkar was not renowned as a sports lover. He said that while he knew "a lot of facts...I don't play the sports."[5]

In May 2011, Varadkar suggested Ireland was "very unlikely" to resume borrowing in 2012 and might need a second bailout, causing jitters on international markets about Ireland's credibility.[6][7] Many of Varadkar's cabinet colleagues were not impressed with Varadkar's forthrightness; nor was the European Central Bank.[8][9] Taoiseach Enda Kenny repeated the Government line that the State would not require a further EU-IMF bailout and said he had warned all ministers against making negative public remarks about the economy.[10][11] Varadkar said that reaction to the story was hyped up but that he was not misquoted.[12] Responding to Varadkar's decision to express his opinion in public, Independent News & Media's Evening Herald paper described the minister as gaffe prone, as it had also done previously.[13][14]

Minister for Health: 2014–2016[edit]

In the cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, Varadkar replaced James Reilly as Minister for Health.[15][16]

He was returned to the Dáil at the February 2016 general election. He retained the health portfolio in an acting capacity until May that year, due to a delay in government formation. In one of his final acts as Minister for Health, Varadkar cut €12 million from the €35 million allocated to that year's budget for mental health care. He was reported as having told the Dáil that the cuts were "necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere."[17]

Minister for Social Protection: 2016–present[edit]

On 6 May 2016, after government formation talks had concluded, Enda Kenny appointed Varadkar as Minister for Social Protection.[18]

Personal life[edit]

During an interview on RTÉ Radio on 18 January 2015 (his 36th birthday), Varadkar spoke publicly for the first time about being gay: "it’s not something that defines me. I'm not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn't define me, it is part of my character I suppose".[19] This made him the first openly gay cabinet member in Ireland.[20] Varadkar was a prominent advocate of the same-sex marriage referendum.[21][22]


  1. ^ "The Saturday Interview". The Irish Times. 20 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Leo Varadkar". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  3. ^ "Mr. Leo Varadkar". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  4. ^ "Noonan named as new Finance Minister". RTÉ News. 9 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (15 September 2011). "'True blue' Varadkar gets red card as Dáil officials flag problem". Irish Independent. 
  6. ^ "To borrow a phrase, Minister". The Irish Times. 1 June 2011. 
  7. ^ Bartha, Emese; Quinn, Eamon (30 May 2011). "Bond Auctions Test Contagion Fears". The Wall Street Journal. 
  8. ^ Collins, Stephen; Beesley, Arthur (31 May 2011). "Cabinet colleagues angered at Varadkar bailout view". The Irish Times. 
  9. ^ Noonan, Laura (10 June 2011). "Trichet talks 'verbal discipline' after Leo's gaffe". Irish Independent. 
  10. ^ O'Regan, Michael; O'Halloran, Marie (31 May 2011). "State 'won't require' second bailout". The Irish Times. 
  11. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan; Kelpie, Colm (1 June 2011). "Kenny lays down law to ministers after Varadkar's gaffe on bailout". Irish Independent. 
  12. ^ "Bailout comments were 'hyped up' – Varadkar". RTÉ News. 2 June 2011. 
  13. ^ "New gaffe is just one of a growing list". Evening Herald. 30 May 2011. 
  14. ^ "Leo won't become king of the political jungle with his roaring gaffes". Evening Herald. 5 September 2008. 
  15. ^ "Taoiseach announces new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  16. ^ Kelly, Fiach (11 July 2014). "Leo Varadkar to replace Reilly as Minister for Health". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  17. ^ McKeowen, Michael (27 April 2016). "Varadkar: 'Mental health funding cuts were not supposed to happen but they are necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere'". Archived from the original on 7 May 2016. 
  18. ^ Leo Varadkar insists new ministry is not a demotion, Irish Mirror, 7 May 2016
  19. ^ "Leo Varadkar: 'I am a gay man', Minister says". The Irish Times. 18 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  20. ^ "Irish Cabinet member tells nation he's gay, becomes Ireland's 1st openly gay government minister". Fox News. 
  21. ^ "Leo Varadkar: 'I wanted to be an equal citizen . . . and today I am'". The Irish Times. 
  22. ^ Nial O'Connor (23 May 2015). "10 factors behind the 'Yes' side's victory". Independent.ie. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Joe Higgins
(Socialist Party)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Dublin West
Political offices
Preceded by
Pat Carey
as Minister for Transport
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
Succeeded by
Paschal Donohoe
Preceded by
James Reilly
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Simon Harris
Preceded by
Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection