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Leo Varadkar resigns as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced he will step down as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael with immediate effect only a few days after returning from his St. Patrick’s day visit to the White House.

The announcement has been met with demands from opposition TDs for an early general election. Coalition leaders have insisted this action will not be taken, as the responsibility to choose a new replacement Taoiseach now falls on members of Fine Gael.

Varadkar’s resignation comes after an unsuccessful referendum campaign where the Irish public overwhelmingly voted No-No. Despite this bad publicity for the government, no one was expecting a resignation from the Taoiseach, with Fine Gael party members describing it as a “bolt from the blue”.

In a statement outside Leinster House yesterday, Varadkar described the reasons for his resignation as ‘both personal and political’, and indicated he will continue to act as Taoiseach until a replacement can be named by his party after the Easter recess.

RTÉ News YouTube.

He has since revealed that he has been planning on making this decision since Christmas. He also claims he has no other jobs lined up, contrary to speculation. He has not yet made a decision about contesting the next general election but will not resign his seat in Dublin West.

In terms of personal reasons, Varadkar has pointed to the long hours and the stress of the job as Taoiseach as a contributing factor to his decision.

Varadkar’s leadership has long been criticised due to the ongoing housing crisis and the increasing numbers of homelessness in the country, with the current figure over 13,000. Others have come to praise his handling of Brexit in the wake of his resignation.

The current favourite to replace Leo Varadkar is Simon Harris, in which case he would be the youngest ever Taoiseach at 37, and the first ever from County Wicklow. Currently serving as the Minister for Higher Education, Harris became a prominent figure during the Covid 19 lockdowns. However, he was also involved in the CervicalCheck scandal during his tenure as Minister for Health in which more than 200 women developed cervical cancer after inaccurate screening tests.

Sinn Féin leadership have said ‘let the people have their say’ when it comes to deciding the next Taoiseach, calling for a general election. Mary Lou Macdonald in particular has said that she does not wish the decision of the country’s leadership to boil down to ‘a few internal conversations in Fine Gael’.

Other opposition TD’s have been vocal on social media calling for a general election, and criticising his response to the aforementioned housing crisis.

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