Monday, 11 December, 2017

Indian origin Leo Varadkar to be Ireland's next prime minister

Kelvin Reese | 04 June, 2017, 07:06

Leo was born in Dublin in 1979, the son of an Irish Catholic nurse from County Waterford and a Hindu doctor from Mumbai, India.

Ireland is to get its youngest prime minister, and the first who is openly gay.

Ireland allowed gay marriage by a popular vote in 2015 but still has Europe's toughest laws against abortion and Varadkar has campaigned for liberalising them.

The final count, including all three electoral colleges, saw Varadkar win with 60% to Housing Minister Simon Coveney's 40% votes.

The successor to outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to be known early this evening when the result of a ballot for the leadership of Fine Gael is declared at the Mansion House in Dublin.

The leader of Ireland's opposition congratulated Varadkar in a statement and said the party was committed to maintaining its current agreement with Fine Gael.

The son of an Indian-born father he was the first openly gay government minister in Ireland.

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He was a practising doctor before joining politics and being elected in 2007. To LGBT activists, this was a welcome signal that his sexual orientation was a nonissue. He will become Ireland's first gay taoiseach (prime minister).

The Sydney Morning Herald's coverage told readers that Ireland had just elected its first gay prime minister.

"If my election today shows anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic", Varadkar said after his victory, according to The Globe and Mail. "I doubt he ever dreamed that his son would one day grow up to become its leader and despite his differences, his son would be treated the same and judged by his actions and character, and not by his ardents and identity", he said. Kenny has been prime minister since 2011 and oversaw the country's 2015 vote legalizing gay marriage.

Varadkar faces many challenges as prime minister, including steering an economy still recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis.

"I want to thank everyone who engaged in this extraordinary, open democratic process", Varadkar said in his acceptance speech. They burst crackers, cut cake and distributed candies among their neighbours who thronged the house of 93-year-old Manohar Varadkar, the uncle of Leo Varadkar.

"It is not something that defines me".

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