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Ireland leader announces resignation

By EARLE GALE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-03-21 09:30

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, announces his resignation on Wednesday in Dublin. PADRAIC HALPIN / REUTERS

Leo Varadkar, leader of European Union member nation the Republic of Ireland, shocked his country on Wednesday by announcing his resignation.

Varadkar, who was Ireland's youngest prime minister when he came to power in 2017, said he was standing down for both personal and political reasons.

He also said from the steps of the government building in Dublin that he would be stepping down as leader of the Fine Gael party, part of Ireland's ruling three-party coalition that also includes the Fianna Fail party and the Green Party.

Fine Gael will now hold a leadership election to find his successor, with the winning candidate set to also run the country.

Varadkar said he believes the successful candidate "will be better placed" to take the party into the next general election.

As he made his shock announcement, a clearly emotional Varadkar said his 20 years in public service had been the "most fulfilling time of my life" and that he was proud to have led his country "from unemployment to full employment, from a budget deficit to a surplus, from austerity to prosperity".

But, he said, after several weeks of turbulence and setbacks, it was time to go.

"We have our limitations," he explained. "We give it everything until we can't any more, and then we have to move on."

The 45-year-old said he has no plan about what to do next.

"I have nothing else lined up or in mind," he said. "No definite personal or political plans, but I am looking forward to having the time to think about them."

Varadkar confirmed he will continue as national leader until Fine Gael holds its annual conference on April 16, at which time the party will name its new leader, and that person will also take over as national leader.

"I know this will come as a surprise for many but I hope, at least, you will understand my decision," he added.

His successor will have around two months to prepare for local elections in the Republic of Ireland and for elections to the European Parliament. Ireland's next general election is likely about a year away.

Varadkar's major achievements while in office included overseeing referendums that enabled the country's constitution to be amended to legalize same-sex marriage and abortion. He also spoke of his pride at improving the affordability of childcare, increasing government spending on the arts, and boosting public infrastructure.

But he had also suffered some setbacks, including defeats in two referendums held earlier this month.

And he had faced criticism from within his party in recent weeks for failing to stop a flurry of announcements from sitting lawmakers who said they would not be seeking reelection next year.

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