The gay son of an Indian immigrant and an Irish nurse is poised to become the youngest Prime Minister of Ireland tonight.
Leo Varadkar is on track to take over the leadership of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael Party today, making him the next Taoiseach or Prime Minister. Currently serving as the Minister for Social Protection in Ireland, he is a doctor by profession and started his political career in medical school.
He’s played down his sexuality since revealing that he was gay in a television interview two years ago, just before the country voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to allow same-sex marriages. “It’s not something that defines me,” he said at the time. “I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me. It is part of my character I suppose.”
And for the most part, it hasn’t been an issue in the leadership race, which has become more about who can win the next election for the centre-right party. Varadkar and Housing Minister Simon Coveney were in the leadership race. So far, Varadkar has managed to secure the support of 46 of Fine Gael’s 73 lawmakers.
Ireland decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, didn’t allow divorce until 1996 and still has Europe’s toughest laws against abortion. In 2015, while Ireland was debating the Marriage Equality Bill, allowing same-sex couples to marry, Varadkar came out as gay on a radio show. The bill was passed later that year.
Varadkar’s father Ashok, also a doctor, was born in Mumbai. A doctor by profession, he met Varadkar’s mother Miriam, a nurse, while working in England in the 1970s. The duo married in England, moved to Dublin in Ireland, where Varadkar was later born.