Sunday, January 29, 2023

Indian-Origin Leo Varadkar set to return as Ireland PM for second time

Leo Varadkar takes over for the second time as Ireland’s prime minister this weekend, in a handover of power between the two main political partners in the three-party governing coalition, reports AFP.
Varadkar, who is mixed race, openly gay and is still one of Ireland’s youngest ever leaders even in his second stint in the role, steps up from deputy premier on Saturday.
The rotation between 43-year-old Varadkar’s Fine Gael and current premier Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail parties is unprecedented in Irish history.
The centre-right parties were forged from opposing sides in the Irish Civil War in the early 20th century.
They agreed to the rotating premiership as part of a coalition with Ireland’s Greens following 2020 elections. Varadkar was seen as a fresh face when he took the helm of governing Fine Gael in 2017.
But after two-and-a-half years as Taoiseach (prime minister in Irish), a misfire at the polls in 2020 and controversies as deputy premier, his critics claim he has lost his shine.
A December poll for Ireland’s Sunday Independent indicated 43 percent of respondents were in favour of Martin remaining in power, against 34 percent for Varadkar.
But Varadkar’s backers point to his experience steering the nation through the coronavirus pandemic and the aftermath of the UK’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union.
Varadkar’s rise to the top of Irish politics was remarkable in a country dominated by a strict, conservative Catholic morality well into the latter half of the last century.
Varadkar’s tenure as Taoiseach was overshadowed by Brexit and the pandemic.
He was widely judged as an effective communicator leading the country into its first lockdown — one of the longest and most stringent imposed in Europe.
He re-registered as a doctor, returning to work once a week while continuing to lead the country.
On Brexit, Varadkar was credited in 2019 with former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for breaking the deadlock on Northern Ireland.
But a resulting deal — which effectively keeps the UK-run province within the European single market and customs union — remains a point of tension between Brussels and London.
Varadkar’s image has more recently been hit by a police investigation into his leaking of a government pay deal for GPs to a friend.
In July, the director of public prosecutions confirmed they would not pursue a case against him, which might have jeopardised his return as premier.

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