Indian-origin gay man, Leo Varadkar, set to become Ireland's next PM

Pablo Tucker
June 4, 2017

Leo, who is openly gay, was elected on Friday as leader of Ireland's Fine Gael, the country's biggest political party.

"As well as becoming Ireland's first gay prime minister, Varadkar, 38, will also become the country's youngest leader, and the first from an ethnic minority background".

The 38-year-old son of an immigrant Indian doctor is now expected to become Taoiseach after winning a leadership battle against Simon Coveney. Then the minister of health, he joined several other openly gay Irish politicians in backing the Marriage Equality Bill allowing same-sex couples to Wednesday.

Speaking after the result was announced, Varadkar said he was delighted, humbled and honoured to win.

He beat his rival, housing minister Simon Coveney, with 60% of the votes, and will take over from former Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny in the coming weeks.

Leo Varadkar has been elected the new leader of Fine Gael.

Irish Times points out that Varadkar, who is in a two-year relationship, will only be the fourth openly gay head of government in modern European history, following Iceland's Jóhanna Sigurdardottir, Belgium's Elio Di Rupo, and Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel.

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

Varadkar faces many challenges as prime minister, including steering an economy still recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis. Varadkar was not even born when Kenny, 66, was first elected as a member of parliament.

"If my election today shows anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic", Varadkar said to huge applause in a speech at Dublin's Mansion House, where Ireland's parliament first sat nearly a century ago.

Varadkar said his father traveled 5000 miles to reach Ireland, but never imagined that his son would grow up to lead the nation.

The leadership contest is decided by party members, lawmakers and local representatives. It's just part of who I am, it doesn't define me, it is part of my character I suppose, ' he said. "Someone who is unconditionally on my side, which is always great", Varadkar said.

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