Ireland's Leo Varadkar resigns as Taoiseach

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews
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Prime minister's sudden exit from office comes after the government suffered humiliating twin referendum defeats.

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Ireland's Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has announced he is leaving office, sending a shockwave through Irish politics with just months to go before European elections.

Irish media first reported that a "political earthquake" was on the way just an hour before a noon press conference, following an early morning cabinet meeting.

Backed by members of his cabinet, Varadkar described his career in public service as the most fulfilling time of his life.

"I'm proud that we've made the country a more equal and modern place," he said, also celebrating measures to combat a cost of living crisis while increasing Ireland's clout in the international community.

He acknowledged that there were areas in which the government had fallen short or gone backwards, but said he would leave it to others to point them out. He also stopped short of offering specific reasons for his resignation, but said his reasons are both personal and political.

"Leadership is knowing when the time has come to pass on the baton to somebody else, and then having the courage to do it," he said. "That time is now."

He is resigning as both Taoiseach and leader of his party, but will remain the member of parliament for his Dublin West constituency. He insisted he has "nothing else lined up" to take his career in a different direction.

"I know that others will, how shall I put it, cope with the news just fine. That is the great thing about living in a democracy.

"There is never a right time to resign high office, however, this is as good a time as any."

The governing coalition that includes Varadkar's Fine Gael party is widely expected to suffer heavy losses to nationalist party Sinn Fein the next time the country goes to the polls.

Varadkar's resignation comes less than two weeks after the shock "no" vote in a twin referendum that had been expected to abolish outdated constitutional provisions relating to the definition of the family and women's role in society.

The surprise vote against the proposed changes was widely blamed on a flaccid government campaign resulting in apathy and low turnout.

Varadkar has served two spells as Taoiseach, first taking on the role in 2017 and returning in 2022.

His tenure has seen him forced to respond to numerous crises, including Brexit, the Covid-19 pandemic and a far-right riot in Dublin.

A doctor by background, Varadkar is Ireland's first Taoiseach of mixed ethnic heritage, and its first out gay premier.

"Politicians are human beings, and we have our limitations," he said. "We give it everything until we can't any more, and then we have to move on."

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