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Leo Varadkar Announces Resignation As Ireland’s Prime Minister

Varadkar steps down as Ireland’s Prime Minister as he believes a new PM will secure the coalition government’s re-election.

In a surprising move, Leo Varadkar declared his resignation as Ireland’s prime minister on Wednesday, citing the potential for the country’s coalition government to improve its chances of re-election under new leadership.

Varadkar’s Fine Gael party is set to commence nominations for a new leader on Thursday, with the results expected to be disclosed on April 5. Following the Easter recess on April 9, Parliament will convene to vote on the successor to Varadkar as prime minister.

The departure of Varadkar, who made history as Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister in 2017 and resumed office just 15 months ago, does not necessitate a general election. A vote is mandated by March 2025.

In a hastily convened news conference in Dublin’s government buildings, Varadkar, 45, said, “My reasons for stepping down are both personal and political.

“But after careful consideration, and some soul searching, I believe that a new Taoiseach (prime minister) and a new leader will be better placed than me to achieve (the coalition government’s re-election).”

The incoming prime minister will have a year to attempt to bridge the considerable opinion poll gap faced by both Fine Gael and their principal coalition partner Fianna Fail in comparison to the main opposition Sinn Fein party.

Among the contenders for Varadkar’s position, Higher Education Minister Simon Harris emerges as the frontrunner, particularly given his handling of the health portfolio during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, other potential successors include Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Justice Minister Helen McEntee. Notably, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney, who previously vied against Varadkar in the 2017 leadership contest, has withdrawn from consideration.

With Fine Gael’s 54 lawmakers accounting for 65% of the electoral college in a weighted vote, candidates may swiftly garner momentum with the backing of colleagues. Nonetheless, the absence of a clear standout candidate underscores the challenge of transitioning leadership after an extended period in power.

Ozioma Samuel-Ugwuezi

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