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Leo Varadkar

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Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar 2016.jpg
Assumed office
14 June 2017
President Michael D. Higgins
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald
Preceded by Enda Kenny
Leader of Fine Gael
Assumed office
2 June 2017
Deputy Simon Coveney
Preceded by Enda Kenny
Minister for Social Protection
In office
6 May 2016 – 14 June 2017
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Joan Burton
Succeeded by Regina Doherty
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
  • Ashok Varadkar
  • Miriam Varadkar
Education The King's Hospital
Alma mater Trinity College
Website Official website

Leo Varadkar (English pronunciation: /ˈliːoʊ vəˈrædkər/; born 18 January 1979) is an Irish Fine Gael politician and the current Taoiseach. Following the retirement of Enda Kenny, he was elected as Leader of the Fine Gael Party on 2 June 2017. On 14 June, he was nominated as Taoiseach by Dáil Éireann and this nomination was approved by the President of Ireland.[1][2] He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency since 2007. He held the ministries of Transport, Tourism and Sport (2011 to 2014), Health (2014 to 2016), and Social Protection (2016 to 2017). During the 2015 same-sex marriage referendum he became the first openly gay Irish government minister and is the first minister of Indian heritage.[3] Upon his election as taoiseach Varadkar became the youngest person to hold the office, as well as the first person from a minority ethnic background to do so. He is also the world's fourth openly gay head of government (following Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Elio Di Rupo and Xavier Bettel).

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 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.

Early life

Born on 18 January 1979 in the Rotunda Hospital in Parnell Square, Dublin, Varadkar is the only son of Ashok Varadkar and Miriam (née Howell). His father was born in Bombay, India, and moved to England in the 1960s to work as a doctor.[4] His mother, born in Dungarvan, met her future husband while working as a nurse in Slough. They lived together in Leicester, where the eldest of their three children, Sophie, was born. The family moved to India, before settling in Dublin in 1973, where their second child, Sonia, was born. Born to a Hindu father and Catholic mother, his parents agreed to raise him in the Catholic faith.[5]

Varadkar was educated at the St Francis Xavier National School, Blanchardstown. His secondary-level education took place in Palmerstown at The King's Hospital, which is a fee-paying school operated under the ethos of the Church of Ireland. During his secondary schooling he joined Fine Gael. He was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), where he briefly studied law. He later switched to medicine. At TCD 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.[6]

He was selected for the prestigious Washington Ireland Program, which prepares ambitious young people for future leadership roles. He graduated from the school of medicine in 2003 and spent several years working as a junior doctor in St. James's Hospital and Connolly Hospital before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010.[citation needed]

Political career

Fingal County Council: 2003–2007

Varadkar was twenty years-old and a second-year medical student when he unsuccessfully contested the 1999 local elections in the Mulhuddart area. Varadkar was co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2003 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.[7]

Dáil Éireann: 2007–present

Varadkar was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 2007 general election,[8] and became party spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2007 to 2010.[9] 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).[7]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport: 2011–2014

When Fine Gael formed a coalition government with Labour, Varadkar was appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on 9 March 2011.[10] 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."[11]

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.[12][13] Many of Varadkar's cabinet colleagues were not impressed with Varadkar's forthrightness; nor was the European Central Bank.[14][15] 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.[16][17] Varadkar said that reaction to the story was hyped up but that he was not misquoted.[18] 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.[19][20]

Minister for Health: 2014–2016

Varadkar at the opening of a unit at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, July 2014

In the cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, Varadkar replaced James Reilly as Minister for Health.[21][22]

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."[23]

Minister for Social Protection: 2016–2017

On 6 May 2016, after government formation talks had concluded, Enda Kenny appointed Varadkar as Minister for Social Protection.[24]

Taoiseach and Leader of Fine Gael

On 2 June 2017, Varadkar was elected leader of Fine Gael, defeating Simon Coveney.[25] Although Coveney had the support of more Fine Gael members than Varadkar, the electoral college system more strongly weighted the votes of the party's parliamentarians, with these strongly backing Varadkar.[26]

Like Kenny, Varadkar relied upon the support of Independents and the abstention of Fianna Fáil TDs to support his premiership. On 14 June 2017 he was appointed Taoiseach in a 57–50 vote with 47 abstentions.[27] He became Ireland's first openly gay Taoiseach, as well as the youngest[nb 1] and the first of half-Indian descent.[28] It was also the first time one Fine Gael Taoiseach was succeeded by another.[nb 2]

One of Varadkar's first acts as Taoiseach was to announce that a referendum on abortion would be held in 2018. He also said that the government would lay out a road map for how to achieve a low carbon economy.[29]

Personal life

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".[30] This made him the first openly gay cabinet member in Ireland.[31] Varadkar was a prominent advocate of the same-sex marriage referendum.[32][33]

His partner, Matthew Barrett, is a doctor at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.[34][35]


  1. ^ The List of Irish heads of government since 1919 shows that two Irish heads of government since 1919, Éamon de Valera (born 14 October 1882, and aged 36 on 1 April 1919) and Michael Collins (born 16 October 1890, and aged 31 on 16 January 1922), have been younger than Varadkar (born 18 January 1979, and aged 38 on 14 June 2017). But both were before the title Taoiseach was adopted under the 1937 Constitution, and indeed before the state came into internationally recognized existence on 6 December 1922.
  2. ^ The List of Irish heads of government since 1919 shows that by the end of August 1922, two heads of government from the Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin parth had died in office: Arthur Griffith (who died on 12 August 1922) and Michael Collins (who died on 22 August 1922). They were succeeded by W. T. Cosgrave of the same Pro-Treaty Sinn Féin faction, which, after being known as Cumann na nGaedheal from 1923 to 1933, merged with two smaller parties in 1933 to form Fine Gael, which was soon led by Cosgrave from 1934 to 1944. But that was before the title Taoiseach was adopted under the 1937 Constitution, before the name "Fine Gael" was adopted in 1933, and indeed before the state came into internationally recognized existence on 6 December 1922.


  1. ^ "More 'disappointments than appointments' over cabinet selection – Varadkar". RTE. 8 June 2017. Retrieved 10 June 2017. Mr Varadkar, who is on course to be elected taoiseach in the Dáil next Wednesday, ... He described his meetings with Fianna Fáil and Independents yesterday as "fruitful". 
  2. ^ Kelly, Fiach (6 June 2017). "Varadkar may have smaller majority as taoiseach than Kenny". The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 June 2017. Mr Varadkar is expected to be elected taoiseach when the House resumes on Tuesday, June 13th. He is set to meet Independent members of the Government on Tuesday night and Wednesday, and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin on Wednesday. He will need the backing of the Independents and the abstention of Fianna Fáil to be elected taoiseach. 
  3. ^ Armstrong, Kelly (2 June 2017). "Significant step for equality". Irish Independent. 
  4. ^ "Varad village in Maharashtra rejoices as Leo Varadkar is set to be Irish PM". 3 June 2017. 
  5. ^ Bielenberg, Kim (4 June 2011). "Why Leo, the petulant political puppy, is still happily wagging his tail". Irish Independent. Retrieved 3 June 2017. His father is Hindu and his mother Catholic. When they got married in church they had to get special permission and agree to bring up the children as Catholic. Varadkar once said: "They deliberately decided that if we were to be brought up in a Western country that we would be brought up in the culture of our country. I think it's a sensible thing." 
  6. ^ "The Saturday Interview". The Irish Times. 20 November 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Leo Varadkar". Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  8. ^ "Mr. Leo Varadkar". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 8 September 2009. 
  9. ^ Bardon, Sarah (3 June 2017). "Profile: Leo Varadkar (FG)". The Irish Times. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 
  10. ^ "Noonan named as new Finance Minister". RTÉ News. 9 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan (15 September 2011). "'True blue' Varadkar gets red card as Dáil officials flag problem". Irish Independent. 
  12. ^ "To borrow a phrase, Minister". The Irish Times. 1 June 2011. 
  13. ^ Bartha, Emese; Quinn, Eamon (30 May 2011). "Bond Auctions Test Contagion Fears". The Wall Street Journal. 
  14. ^ Collins, Stephen; Beesley, Arthur (31 May 2011). "Cabinet colleagues angered at Varadkar bailout view". The Irish Times. 
  15. ^ Noonan, Laura (10 June 2011). "Trichet talks 'verbal discipline' after Leo's gaffe". Irish Independent. 
  16. ^ O'Regan, Michael; O'Halloran, Marie (31 May 2011). "State 'won't require' second bailout". The Irish Times. 
  17. ^ Sheahan, Fionnan; Kelpie, Colm (1 June 2011). "Kenny lays down law to ministers after Varadkar's gaffe on bailout". Irish Independent. 
  18. ^ "Bailout comments were 'hyped up' – Varadkar". RTÉ News. 2 June 2011. 
  19. ^ "New gaffe is just one of a growing list". Evening Herald. 30 May 2011. 
  20. ^ "Leo won't become king of the political jungle with his roaring gaffes". Evening Herald. 5 September 2008. 
  21. ^ "Taoiseach announces new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Kelly, Fiach (11 July 2014). "Leo Varadkar to replace Reilly as Minister for Health". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 July 2014. 
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ Leo Varadkar insists new ministry is not a demotion Archived 8 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Irish Mirror, 7 May 2016
  25. ^ "Varadkar 'delighted and humbled' by election result". RTÉ.ie. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  26. ^ "Results of the combined votes cast by the Electoral College. #FGLE17". Twitter. 2 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017. 
  27. ^ "Leo Varadkar elected as Republic of Ireland's taoiseach". BBC. 14 June 2017. Retrieved 14 June 2017. 
  28. ^ McDonald, Henry (3 June 2017). "Leo Varadkar, gay son of Indian immigrant, to be next Irish PM". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 June 2017. 
  29. ^ "Abortion referendum to be held next year, Varadkar says". Irish Times. 
  30. ^ "Leo Varadkar: 'I am a gay man', Minister says". The Irish Times. 18 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015. 
  31. ^ "Irish Cabinet member tells nation he's gay, becomes Ireland's 1st openly gay government minister". Fox News Channel. 
  32. ^ "Leo Varadkar: 'I wanted to be an equal citizen . . . and today I am'". The Irish Times. 
  33. ^ Nial O'Connor (23 May 2015). "10 factors behind the 'Yes' side's victory". The Irish Independent. 
  34. ^ "Meet the dashing doctor boyfriend supporting Leo Varadkar in his Fine Gael leadership bid". The Independent. 21 February 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 
  35. ^ Barton, Sarah (17 May 2017). "Fine Gael leadership race: Leo Varadkar". The Irish Times. Retrieved 29 May 2017. 

External links

Preceded by
Joan Burton from 2002
Ruth Coppinger from 2014
Brian Lenihan Jnr to 2011
Patrick Nulty 2011–14
Joe Higgins to 2016
Teachta Dála for Dublin West
2007 – present
With: Joan Burton
Jack Chambers
Ruth Coppinger
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
Succeeded by
Regina Doherty
Preceded by
Enda Kenny