Leo Varadkar steps down as Irish Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader in an unexpected move

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has announced his intention to step down in an unexpected announcement, with a replacement to be elected by Fine Gael before 6 April.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has today announced his intention to step down as Fine Gael party leader and as Taoiseach.

Speaking in Dublin today, Varadkar said he had asked the Fine Gael general secretary and executive council to elect a new leader ahead of its Ard Fheis (annual conference) on 6 April. Parliament will then have to vote as to whether the new leader should succeed Varadkar as Prime Minister.

There is never a ‘right time’ to resign high office. However, this is as good a time as any – Budget 2024 is done, and negotiations have not yet commenced on the next one.

The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are working again, and our trading relationship with the United Kingdom, in the post-Brexit era, is settled and stable.

The new Taoiseach will have a full two months to prepare for the Local and European Elections, and up to a year before the next General Election.

My reasons for stepping down now are personal and political, but mainly political.

I believe this government can be re-elected. I believe my Party, Fine Gael, can gain seats in the next Dáil. Most of all, I believe that would be the right thing for the future of our country, continuing to take us forward. Protecting what we achieved and building on it.

After careful consideration and some soul-searching, I believe a new Taoiseach will be better-placed than me to achieve that – to renew and strengthen the top team, to refocus our message and policies, and to drive implementation. After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for that job.

There are loyal colleagues and good friends contesting the Local & European Elections and I want to give them the best chance possible. I think they will now have a better chance under a new Leader.

In standing aside, I can do so in the absolute confidence that the country and the economy are in a good place, and that my colleagues in the government from all three parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, and the Oireachtas will continue to work hard for the nation’s best interests.

– Leo Varadkar, Irish PM

The resignation of Varadkar doesn’t trigger a general election in the Republic of Ireland, but Sinn Fein has called for one to be held. First Minister Michelle O’Neill said, “I think it’s now over to the people, there should be an election, people should have a chance to pass their verdict, particularly after 13 years of Fine Gael in power”.

“13 years of failure on their part, 13 years of failure to build houses, 13 years of failure to support people through the cost of living crisis. So, ultimately, what we now need to see is an election.”

Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly said, “it is fair to say that Leo Varadkar and unionism didn’t see eye-to-eye very often, if at all, but of course, I do wish him all the very best as he steps down today”.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said “Northern Ireland and the south have a good relationship, more so than at any time in recent history, which is due in no small part to the work of Leo Varadkar and other members of the Irish Government,”

“In terms of local politics, he has played his part in helping restore the Executive here twice and also contributed greatly to many challenges we have faced such as the fall-out of Brexit, the issue of legacy and has also added his voice to the chorus of those recognising the need for reform of the Stormont institutions.

“On a personal level, I always enjoyed meeting and co-operating with Leo on a wide range of topics, and he always showed a genuine interest in local issues. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do now.”

<a href=httpsnielectscomtagdoug beattie data type=post tag data id=28>Doug Beattie<a> leader of the <a href=taguup>UUP<a> said that the sudden announcement has come to a surprise to us all

“On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I would like to wish Mr. Varadkar every success in the future. We look forward to working with his successor in a constructive manner fostering good relationships.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said that Leo Varadkar “has served our country with honour and integrity throughout his time as Taoiseach.”

“Having taken office at a fractious moment in the politics of our island and during a period of turbulence in the British/Irish relationship, he has undoubtedly played an important role providing encouragement and support for the North.”

“In all of my dealings with the Taoiseach, I have found him to be direct, supportive and willing to do whatever he can to support the political process in the North. I sincerely wish him and Matt the very best for the future.”

Leo Varadkar was first elected Taoiseach in June 2017, he served until June 2020, when Micheál Martin took over. Varadkar was then re-appointed Taoiseach in December 2022. He has been a TD for Dublin West since May 2007.

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