Leo Varadkar was voted the new leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party Friday, putting him in line to become the country’s next prime minister, or Taoiseach. It’s a victory that’s nothing short of historic: The 38-year-old son of an Indian immigrant will become the country’s first openly gay premier and its youngest prime minister.
“If my election today shows anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic,” Varadkar said at Dublin’s Mansion House after the results were announced, adding: “Around the world people look to Ireland as a country where it doesn't matter where you come from, only where you want to go.”
Varadkar earned 60 percent of the vote in the center-right party’s leadership contest, which was decided by the Fine Gael members, councillors, and parliamentary party members. Varadkar’s opponent, Simon Coveney, took 40 percent. The election came less than a month after Prime Minister Enda Kenny announced his resignation, ending his 15-year reign as party leader. Though the longtime parliamentarian has been credited with helping to steer Ireland out of the recession following the 2008 global financial crash, he has also faced internal party pressure over his failure to secure an outright majority during the country’s 2016 general election, as well as a political scandal over his government’s handling of police corruption.