Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar is PoliticDoc

Leo Varadkar (Irish pronunciation: [ˈlʲoː ˈvˠaɾˠəd̪ˠkəɾˠ]; born 18 January 1979) is an Irish Fine Gael politician. Following the retirement of Enda Kenny, he was elected as Leader of the Fine Gael Party on 2 June 2017. It is expected that he will be appointed as Taoiseach later in June following the approval of Dáil Éireann. He has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency since 2007. He held the ministries of Transport, Tourism and Sport from 2011 to 2014, Health from 2014 to 2016, and Social Protection since 2016. During the 2015 Irish Marriage referendum he became the first openly gay Irish government minister.

Varadkar was born in Dublin and studied Medicine at Trinity College, Dublin. He spent several years as a junior doctor before qualifying as a general practitioner in 2010. In 2004 he was co-opted onto Fingal County Council and served as deputy mayor before his election to Dáil Éireann. He was promoted to the Front Bench by Enda Kenny as Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, remaining in this position until a 2010 reshuffle when he became Spokesperson on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources.

He is notable for being the first openly gay leader of an Irish political party, and the first of Indian heritage.

Fingal County Council: 2003–2007

Varadkar was twenty years-old and a second-year medical student when he successfully contested the 1999 local elections in the Mulhuddart area. Varadkar was co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2013 for the Castleknock area as a replacement for Sheila Terry. At the 2004 local elections he received the highest first-preference vote in the country with 4,894 votes and was elected on the first count.[5]

Dáil Éireann: 2007–present

Varadkar was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 2007 general election,[6] and became party spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2007 to 2010.[7]At the 2011 general election, Varadkar was re-elected to Dáil Éireann with 8,359 first preference votes (a 19.7% share of the poll in a 4-seat constituency).[5]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport: 2011–2014

When Fine Gael formed a coalition government with Labour, Varadkar was appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on 9 March 2011.[8] This was considered a surprise appointment as Varadkar was not renowned as a sports lover. He said that while he knew “a lot of facts…I don’t play the sports.”[9]

In May 2011, Varadkar suggested Ireland was “very unlikely” to resume borrowing in 2012 and might need a second bailout, causing jitters on international markets about Ireland’s credibility.[10][11] Many of Varadkar’s cabinet colleagues were not impressed with Varadkar’s forthrightness; nor was the European Central Bank.[12][13] Taoiseach Enda Kenny repeated the Government line that the State would not require a further EU-IMF bailout and said he had warned all ministers against making negative public remarks about the economy.[14][15] Varadkar said that reaction to the story was hyped up but that he was not misquoted.[16]Responding to Varadkar’s decision to express his opinion in public, Independent News & Media‘s Evening Herald paper described the minister as gaffe prone, as it had also done previously.[17][18]

Minister for Health: 2014–2016

In the cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, Varadkar replaced James Reilly as Minister for Health.[19][20]

He was returned to the Dáil at the February 2016 general election. He retained the health portfolio in an acting capacity until May that year, due to a delay in government formation. In one of his final acts as Minister for Health, Varadkar cut €12 million from the €35 million allocated to that year’s budget for mental health care. He was reported as having told the Dáil that the cuts were “necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere.”[21]

Minister for Social Protection: 2016–present

On 6 May 2016, after government formation talks had concluded, Enda Kenny appointed Varadkar as Minister for Social Protection.[22]

Leader of Fine Gael

On 2 June 2017, Varadkar was elected leader of Fine Gael. He will become Ireland’s first openly gay Taoiseach, as well as the youngest and the first of half-Indian descent.[23][24]

Personal life

During an interview on RTÉ Radio on 18 January 2015 (his 36th birthday), Varadkar spoke publicly for the first time about being gay: “it’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose”.[25] This made him the first openly gay cabinet member in Ireland.[26]Varadkar was a prominent advocate of the same-sex marriage referendum.[27][28]

His partner, Matthew Barrett, is a doctor at Mater Misericordiae University Hospital.[29][30]

He is interested in sport (rugby and Gaelic football), music and history. He is a fitness fan and takes part in runs, triathlons and swims.

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