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Leo Varadkar steps down as Ireland’s prime minister in shock move

WorldLeo Varadkar steps down as Ireland's prime minister in shock move

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay taoiseach, or prime minister, said Wednesday that he would step down — a shocking move that he said was for both “personal and political” reasons.

Varadkar, who became Ireland’s youngest taoiseach in 2017, said he would also relinquish his leadership of the center-right Fine Gael party, which forms a ruling coalition government along with Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.

“I’m proud that we have made the country a more equal and more modern place,” he told reporters gathered outside government buildings in Dublin.

Sounding emotional, he said there was no “real reason” behind his decision and he “had nothing else lined up.”

“I have nothing in mind,” he added. “I have no definite personal or political plans.”

A senior Irish official told NBC News that the announcement would be “a bolt from the blue for the Irish public,” which “throws everything up in the air.” The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter, added that Varadkar, who trained as a physician, “didn’t see a lifetime in politics.”

Varadkar’s departure, which comes less than a week after he met with President Joe Biden at the White House before St. Patrick’s Day, will not automatically trigger an election.

Varadkar said he had asked for a new leader of the party to be chosen on April 6, allowing a new prime minister to take office after parliament’s Easter break.

Varadkar, 45, whose mother is Irish and father is Indian, was the country’s youngest leader when first elected, as well as Ireland’s first gay and first biracial prime minister

He served two terms as taoiseach, from 2017 to 2020 and again since December 2022.

During his time in office he oversaw referendums to change the Irish constitution legalizing same-sex marriage and abortion.

But this month he suffered humiliating defeats in two elections, when his countrymen overwhelmingly voted against proposed changes to the constitution that would have redefined marriage and removed “sexist” language.

Varadkar told reporters he knew his resignation would “come as a surprise to many people and a disappointment to some, but I hope you will understand my decision.”

“Politicians are human beings, and we have our limitations,” he said.

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