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Ireland's governing Fine Gael elects Leo Varadkar as new leader

03 Juin 2017

Varadkar's election as leader of the governing Fine Gael party on Friday means he will nearly certainly succeed Enda Kenny as prime minister in the coming weeks, marking another symbolic moment for Ireland. Born in 1979 to an Indian doctor from Mumbai and an Irish Catholic nurse from County Waterford, he will also become Ireland's youngest-ever taoiseach - the Irish word for "leader" - and the first son of an immigrant to lead the nation.

It was Sunday 18 January 2015, Ireland was preparing for a referendum on same-sex marriage and cabinet minister Leo Varadkar was about to go public.

Following the announcement on Friday evening, Mr Varadkar said he was "honoured" to accept the "enormous challenge" ahead of him with humility.

Varadkar won the race to leadership after getting 60 percent of the vote against Home Minister Simon Coveney.

He will succeed Enda Kenny as leader of the centre-right party within weeks.

As party leader, Varadkar is expected to become the new prime minister - also known as the taoiseach - when Parliament votes on the matter within a few days. "It's not something that defines me", he said at the time.

Leo Varadkar first entered local politics in 2003, and rose to national prominence in 2011 when he was appointed Minister for Transport.

"He's a once-in-a-generation politician", said Fine Gael member of parliament Jim Daly, echoing the comments of most of his colleagues who have placed high hopes in Varadkar.

In an interview on RTÉ Radio 1 in January 2015 with Miriam O'Callaghan, Varadkar revealed he is gay, but stressed that it was not something that defined him.

Mr Varadkar praised Mr Coveney for his campaign and said the two of them would sit down and discuss the future of the party on Saturday.

The former first minister of Northern Ireland, DUP leader Arlene Foster, has spoken on the phone to congratulate Mr Varadkar.

In a statement earlier today, the outgoing leader asked party members to "give the same support to whoever is elected Leader today".

The parliamentary party voted for Varadkar, overwhelmingly, as was widely expected.

The Sinn Féin member for the constituency of Cavan/Monaghan, Caoimhghin O'Caoláintold POLITICO: "He showed little empathy with those who were languishing on long waiting lists and just as little with hospital staff and other service providers across our health services [when he was at the health ministry]".

Ireland's governing Fine Gael elects Leo Varadkar as new leader