Leo Varadkar, son of an Indian immigrant father and an Irish mother, appears on course to become the next prime minister of Ireland.
He is currently serving as Ireland’s Minister for Social Protection, who announced his campaign to succeed the present Irish Prime Minister Taoiseach Enda Kenny in 2011. It was in 2012 that Kenny announced his decision to step down from the post. He also happens to be the leader of ruling Fine Gael party since 2002.
Varadkar’s only opponent is Housing Minister Simon Coveney, who happens to be a Fine Gael stalwart. However, Varadkar is seen as a fresh face for urban voters, while still appealing to the party’s rural base.
The 38-year old politician managed to win the support of many Fine Gael parliamentary members, who account for 65% of the total vote. The other party members constitute the remaining 35%. A decision is expected by June 2nd.
When Ireland prepared itself to cast a historic vote in 2015, legalising same-sex marriage, Varadkar opened about his homosexuality publicly.
“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,” he said.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Ireland only in 1993. In 2015, Ireland passed the Marriage Equality Bill, that allowed the marriage of same-sex couples.
Senator David Norris was the first Irish politician to publicly come out as gay.
“What Varadkar does in bed is irrelevant”, he said.
He also noted that if Varadkar becomes Ireland’s next prime minister, it would signal another stride forward for equality rights in Ireland.
“For people of my generation, there were no role models at all. Now to be able to have a young, able, good-looking gay man as prime minister of the country, it says to young people, ‘you can be anything you want, your sexuality doesn’t matter,'” he said.
If elected, Varadkar would be the second openly gay heads of state in office currently, with Luxembourg’s prime minister Xavier Bettel being the first one.
In his leadership campaign, “Taking Ireland Forward,” Varadkar has promised to hold a referendum on abortion in 2018, reform tax laws for the self-employed and repeal a controversial water charge. The politician has also promised to clamp down on welfare fraud, invest heavily in large infrastructure projects and act as a champion for small business.