Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister has stood down as leader of the Fine Gael party and will resign as taoiseach when a successor is found. 

Just 15 months into his second term as leader, Varadkar announced his surprise resignation at a press conference in Dublin. He cited both “personal and political” reasons, saying that someone else “will be better placed” to lead the country.

He said: “After seven years in office, I don’t feel I’m the best person for the job anymore. There are loyal colleagues and good friends contesting local and European elections, and I want to give them the best chance possible.” 

“On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed being taoiseach… However, politicians are human beings and we have our limitations. We give it everything until we can’t anymore. And then we have to move on.”

Micheál Martin, the deputy prime minister who was taoiseach until 2022, said: “I was surprised, very surprised. I didn’t expect it at all. It is unprecedented in many ways. In my view we have a clear mandate, we have a clear programme for government.”

Varadkar’s resignation comes less than a week after the country voted against his government’s proposed amendments to change the allegedly sexist language of the constitution. The government wanted to change the constitution to remove the primacy of heterosexual marriage and enshrine other relationships. 

In 2017, Varadkar became the first openly gay and the youngest politician to lead Ireland. He is also the first Irish leader from an ethnic minority as his father is Indian. Between his two terms as prime minister, he served as deputy prime minister and minister for enterprise, trade and employment.

His resignation from the three-party coalition of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party does not immediately trigger a general election, although this news will add pressure on the government to call one. 

Speculation on a potential successor has mentioned the higher education minister Simon Harris, who was health minister during the pandemic, enterprise minister Simon Coveney, who used to be deputy prime minister and public expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe.

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