Ireland's Varadkar unexpectedly quits as PM

  • World
  • Wednesday, 20 Mar 2024

Ireland's Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Leo Varadkar holds a press conference in Stormont Parliament Buildings in Belfast, Northern Ireland, February 5, 2024. REUTERS/Carrie Davenport/File Photo

DUBLIN (Reuters) -Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday he would step down as Ireland's prime minister and the leader of the governing Fine Gael party, in a surprise move which he said was for both personal and political reasons.

"I am resigning as president and leader of Fine Gael effective today and will resign as the Taoiseach (prime minister) as soon as my successor is able to take up that office," Varadkar told reporters gathered outside government buildings in Dublin.

Varadkar's departure as head of the three-party coalition does not automatically trigger a general election.

He said he had asked for a new leader of the party to be chosen on April 6, allowing a new prime minister to be elected after parliament's Easter break.

Sound emotional as he made the announcement, Varadkar said it was the right time for him to step down and that there was no "real reason" behind his decision.

"I have nothing else lined up I have nothing in mind. I have no definite personal or political plans," he said.

In 2017, Varadkar became the first gay prime minister of the once-staunchly Catholic country and the youngest person to hold the office.

He returned to the premiership in 2022 under a rotation arrangement struck between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, the two largest parties in a three-party coalition with the smaller Green Party.

The next election must be called by early 2025.

Contenders to succeed Varadkar as Fine Gael leader include Higher Education Minister Simon Harris, who was health minister during the COVID-19 pandemic, Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney, a former deputy prime minister, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Justice Minister Helen McEntee.

(Reporting by Padraic Halpin and Muvija M, writing by William Schomberg and Sarah Young)

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