As Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced his resignation May 17, two politicians were quickly announced as possible successors, including Indo-Irishman Leo Varadkar, currently serving as Minister for Social Protection.
Varadkar, the son of Mumbai-born physician Ashok Varadkar, is the leader of Ireland’s Fine Gael party, currently the governing and largest party in the country. His main challenger will be Simon Coveney, Ireland’s Minister for Housing, Planning, Community, and Local Government.
The Irish Times noted that Varadkar rejects the label of “right-wing,” but has claimed he would be a Tory if he lived in Britain. He argued in 2008 for the deportation of unemployed immigrants, proposing a plan to give them several months’ worth of benefits if they left Ireland to return to their home country.
More recently, Varadkar has taken on "welfare cheats," threatening to publish the names and addresses of people who have been convicted of welfare fraud.
Like his father, Varadkar – who was born and raised in Dublin – is a trained physician, and spent many years as a general practitioner before entering politics.
The 38-year-old politician came out as a gay man in 2015, when Ireland was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage through popular vote. In a coming-out speech he gave in a radio interview, he said: “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.”
Of the referendum, he said: “Think of the best marriages you know. Does it matter whether they are two men or two women?”
Fine Gael is considered a center-right political party, one that takes liberal positions on several social and economic issues. On its Web site, the party lists its priorities as increasing access to health care for all; tackling homelessness; delivering full employment by 2020 through expanding the enterprise sector; and rural growth.
Kenny had campaigned against Brexit – Britain’s move to leave the European Union – saying it would create “serious difficulties” for Northern Ireland and border areas. After the passage of the Brexit referendum last June, the Fine Gael party said it continues to be concerned about people who live along the border and those who cross the border frequently.
Before serving as the Minister for Social Protection, Varadkar served as Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sports, beginning in 2011.
Indian American venture capitalist Mohanjit Jolly, who has backed several Indian and U.S. companies with bases in Ireland, told India-West: “The fact that Ireland is considering Leo Varadkar, an openly gay man of Indo-Irish origin, speaks volumes of the people and culture of the country.”