Indian-origin Leo Varadkar to become Irish PM for second time

A December poll for Ireland's Sunday Independent indicated 43 percent of respondents were in favour of his opposition remaining in power

By AFP

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 27, 2020 Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar speaks during a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin, after his meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. - Leo Varadkar takes over for the second time as Ireland's prime minister this weekend, in a handover of power between the two main political partners in the three-party governing coalition. Varadkar, who is mixed race, openly gay and is still one of Ireland's youngest ever leaders even in his second stint in the role, steps up from deputy premier on December 17, 2022. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)
(FILES) In this file photo taken on January 27, 2020 Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar speaks during a press conference at Government Buildings in Dublin, after his meeting with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier. - Leo Varadkar takes over for the second time as Ireland's prime minister this weekend, in a handover of power between the two main political partners in the three-party governing coalition. Varadkar, who is mixed race, openly gay and is still one of Ireland's youngest ever leaders even in his second stint in the role, steps up from deputy premier on December 17, 2022. (Photo by Paul Faith / AFP)

Published: Sat 17 Dec 2022, 2:24 PM

Leo Varadkar takes over for the second time as Ireland's prime minister this weekend, in a handover of power between the two main political partners in the three-party governing coalition.

Varadkar, who is mixed race and is still one of Ireland's youngest ever leaders even in his second stint in the role, steps up from deputy premier on Saturday.

The rotation between 43-year-old Varadkar's Fine Gael and current premier Micheal Martin's Fianna Fail parties is unprecedented in Irish history.

The centre-right parties were forged from opposing sides in the Irish Civil War in the early 20th century.

They agreed to the rotating premiership as part of a coalition with Ireland's Greens following 2020 elections.

Varadkar was seen as a fresh face when he took the helm of governing Fine Gael in 2017.

But after two-and-a-half years as Taoiseach (prime minister in Irish), a misfire at the polls in 2020 and controversies as deputy premier, his critics claim he has lost his shine.

A December poll for Ireland's Sunday Independent indicated 43 percent of respondents were in favour of Martin remaining in power, against 34 percent for Varadkar.

But Varadkar's backers point to his experience steering the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the UK's 2016 vote to leave the European Union.

Varadkar's rise to the top of Irish politics was remarkable in a country dominated by a strict, conservative Catholic morality well into the latter half of the last century.

At 38, he became the country's youngest Taoiseach and first of Indian heritage.

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Varadkar was born in Dublin to an Irish mother who worked as a nurse and an Indian immigrant father, who was a qualified doctor.

At the age of seven, a precocious Varadkar is reported to have told his mother's friends that he wanted to be the minister for health.

After gaining a medical degree from Trinity College Dublin, he went into general practice but stayed involved in politics, and in 2007 secured election for Fine Gael in Dublin West.

On Brexit, Varadkar was credited in 2019 with former UK prime minister Boris Johnson for breaking the deadlock on Northern Ireland.

But a resulting deal -- which effectively keeps the UK-run province within the European single market and customs union -- remains a point of tension between Brussels and London.

Varadkar's image has more recently been hit by a police investigation into his leaking of a government pay deal for GPs to a friend.

In July, the director of public prosecutions confirmed they would not pursue a case against him, which might have jeopardised his return as premier.


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