Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Announces Resignation

Ireland's Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has announced that he will stand down as prime minister with immediate effect and leader of Fine Gael as soon as his successor is selected.

Making the surprise announcement on the steps of the Dail in Dublin this afternoon, Wednesday 20 March, Mr Varadkar said that his time as Irish prime minister was the "fulfilling time" of his life.

Mr Varadkar became Ireland's youngest ever Taoiseach when he became Fine Gael leader in 2017. He said his reasons for stepping down were "personal and political" and that he no longer felt that he was the "best person for the job anymore".

It is currently unclear if Mr Varadkar's announcement will trigger and general election in Ireland.

Following the announcement, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP said: "Leo Varadkar and I were very often on different ends of the political spectrum. We differed on the Republic of Ireland's approach to legacy, and sharply differed on his approach and attitude on the Protocol and the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. Where we differed we did so respectfully.

"There were other areas where we were able to work together on matters of mutual benefit for both our countries.

"I wish Mr Varadkar well as he steps down from leadership."

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MP paid tribute to Mr Varadkar’s service to Ireland: "Leo Varadkar has served our country with honour and integrity throughout his time as Taoiseach.

"Having taken office at a fractious moment in the politics of our island and during a period of turbulence in the British/Irish relationship, he has undoubtedly played an important role providing encouragement and support for the North.
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"During two periods of difficulty for devolution, the Taoiseach worked hard to support the restoration of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. Beyond warm words of encouragement, he has committed measurable resource to critical projects in the North that will bring communities closer together.

"And during the Brexit negotiations, he was a consistently strong voice for people in Northern Ireland. I recognise that not everyone will share that analysis but for the majority here who wanted to maintain our European identity, avoid the return of a hard border and bank the economic benefits of access to European markets, Leo Varadkar was a relentless ally.

"And I know that, as an LGBT+ Leader from a minority ethnic community, Leo has provided visibility and inspiration to many across our island who have not felt represented in the institutions of government before. That is undoubtedly a good thing.

"In all of my dealings with the Taoiseach, I have found him to be direct, supportive and willing to do whatever he can to support the political process in the North. I sincerely wish him and Matt the very best for the future."

Alliance Leader Naomi Long MLA said that Mr Varadkar had a major role to play in positive north-south relations: "Northern Ireland and the south have a good relationship, more so than at any time in recent history, which is due in no small part to the work of Leo Varadkar and other members of the Irish Government," she said.

"In terms of local politics, he has played his part in helping restore the Executive here twice and also contributed greatly to many challenges we have faced such as the fall-out of Brexit, the issue of legacy and has also added his voice to the chorus of those recognising the need for reform of the Stormont institutions.

"On a personal level, I always enjoyed meeting and co-operating with Leo on a wide range of topics, and he always showed a genuine interest in local issues. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do now."

Posting to X, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, made a call for general election, stating that "the next Taoiseach should be chosen by the people".

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