Ireland’s Prime Minister Is Quitting

Ireland's Prime Minister Is Quitting

( – Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, who first served as his country’s leader in 2017, is calling it quits. He said no one reason led to the decision, which came as a surprise even to his cabinet members, but he felt he was no longer the right person to hold the position. He said he hoped a change in leadership might help the party refine its message and fine-tune its focus. His vacancy will force his peers to hold a special election to replace him.

Personal and Political Reasons

Varadkar published a press release on March 20, 2024, through the Department of the Taoiseach — the Irish term for prime minister. He said that there may never be the “right time” for a leader to decide to step down, but he felt comfortable leaving now because the 2024 budget was complete and 2025 negotiations hadn’t yet begun. The Irish leader noted his numerous achievements during his time in office but added that he had also failed the people on more than one front.

Fine Gael, Varadkar’s political party, has suffered massive declines in support in recent years. It nearly fell short of staying in power during the 2020 elections, when his party initially came in third in polls. It joined a coalition with another party, Fianna Fáil, and the merger allowed the two to win together. Fianna Fáil’s leader, Micheál Martin, served as prime minister until 2022, when he passed the seat back to Varadkar.

Varadkar was Ireland’s first openly gay leader, and he was among the lawmakers who worked toward legalizing same-sex marriage. He also wanted to amend Ireland’s constitution so that it no longer contained text about the necessary role women played in the home. The resigning leader wanted to change the definition of family, allowing for recognition of non-traditional alternatives, as well.

Elections Ahead

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil currently only have about 20% of the nation’s support. Sinn Féin, Ireland’s leftist nationalist party, currently has the lead with about 30%. The shift marks a major change in the political dividing lines, veering drastically from the overwhelming support Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both enjoyed in previous decades. In contrast, Sinn Féin could take power for the first time since its modern reimaging.

For the time being, another member of the Fine Gael party will need to step up to fill Varadkar’s vacancy. The Irish Parliament is expected to vote in the temporary leader by the end of April.

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