Leo Varadkar will be becoming Ireland’s first gay Taoiseach (Prime Minister), and the youngest leader in the entire European Union. The 38-year-old beat his rival, Simon Coveney, with 60 percent votes to replace Enda Kenny as the head of Fine Gael, the biggest party in Ireland’s coalition government, on Friday.
Previously the Minister of Health, Varadkar stands out for two reasons – for being openly gay, and for being from an ethnic minority. He is the son of Ashok Varadkar, a doctor from Mumbai, and Miriam, an Irish nurse. This also makes him the first ever leader in Ireland from an ethnic minority background.
Varadkar came out during a live interview on RTE Radio 1 in 2015, as he said, “I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before. 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”.
Though Varadkar is the image of straight-up centre-right politics, he may be the face and force behind a liberal, progressive Ireland, which was previously one of the most conservative nations until 1993. He is credited with propelling the movement in favour of legalising gay marriage in Ireland in 2015. Part of his success is attributed to his openness and his willingness to speak his mind.
Following the announcement, Varadkar delivered a stirring speech (video above). “If my election shows anything it’s that prejudice has no hold in this Republic,” he proclaimed. “Any child growing up in Ireland now, I hope, looks at me and my unlikely story and my background, and everything about me, and perhaps says to themselves, that there is no office in this state that I can’t aspire to, nothing that they can’t do if they believe in themselves,” he said.