Ireland’s Prime Minister to Step Down

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s taoiseach or prime minister, said on Wednesday that he would step down as the leader of the country and his party, days after the defeat of two referendums that the coalition government had championed.

Ireland is scheduled to hold a general election early next year, and his decision will not trigger an earlier election, he said.

“I know this will come as a surprise to many people and a disappointment to some, but I hope you will understand my decision,” Mr. Varadkar told a press briefing outside Parliament in central Dublin.

He described his years as the head of the party as the “most fulfilling time” of his life. “There is never a right time to resign high office,” he said. “However, this is as good a time as any.”

Citing reasons both “personal and political,” Mr. Varadkar said he would step down from the party leadership effective immediately, and would continue to serve as taoiseach until his party elects a new leader. He said that would be carried out before a planned Easter break, with a new leader expected when the government returns on April 16.

He added, “Politicians are human beings, and we have our limitations.”

He made the unexpected announcement shortly after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning. There was little indication of Mr. Varadkar’s decision just days ago when he visited the White House and met with President Biden on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mr. Varadkar, who is gay and whose father has Indian heritage, broke a number of barriers when he became the country’s youngest-ever leader in 2017 and had long been seen as the new face of the Fine Gael party, which is currently in a coalition government with its longtime rival, Fianna Fáil.

After the coalition government came to power in June 2020, he served as deputy prime minister before again moving into the leadership role as part of the parties’ power-sharing agreement.

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