Leo Varadkar

Leo Varadkar
Minister for Social Protection
Assumed office
6 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Joan Burton
Minister for Health
In office
11 July 2014  8 May 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by James Reilly
Succeeded by Simon Harris
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
In office
9 March 2011  11 July 2014
Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Preceded by Pat Carey (Transport)
Succeeded by Paschal Donohoe
Teachta Dála
Assumed office
June 2007
Constituency Dublin West
Personal details
Born (1979-01-18) 18 January 1979
Blanchardstown, Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fine Gael
Alma mater Trinity College
Profession Medical Doctor
Website Official website

Leo Varadkar (born 18 January 1979) is an Irish Fine Gael politician, and the Minister for Social Protection since May 2016. A Young Fine Gael veteran and Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency since June 2007, he is a former vice-president of the Youth of the European People's Party and an alumnus of the Washington Ireland Program. He was Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport between 2011 and 2014 and Minister for Health between 2014 and 2016. He is a qualified medical doctor and became the first openly gay Irish government minister during his time at the Department of Health.

Early life

Varadkar was born in Dublin, the son of an Indian father (a retired GP in Blanchardstown) and a mother from County Waterford. He studied at King's Hospital School, Palmerstown and Trinity College, where he earned a medical degree and joined Young Fine Gael.[1] He is a former vice-president of the Youth of the European People's Party and an alumnus of the Washington Ireland Program.

Political career

Fingal County Council: 2003–2007

Varadkar was co-opted to Fingal County Council in 2003 as a replacement for Sheila Terry. At the 2004 local elections, he was elected to the council to represent the Castleknock local electoral area and topped the poll.[2]

Dáil Éireann: 2007–present

Varadkar was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 2007 general election,[3] and became party spokesperson for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from 2007–2010. At the 2011 general election, Varadkar was re-elected to Dáil Éireann with 8,359 first preference votes (a 19.7% share of the poll in a 4-seat constituency).[2]

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport: 2011–2014

Fine Gael formed a coalition government with Labour and Varadkar was appointed Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on 9 March 2011.[4] This was considered a surprise appointment as Varadkar was not renowned as a sports lover. He said that while he knew "a lot of facts...I don't play the sports."[5]

In May 2011, Varadkar suggested Ireland was "very unlikely" to resume borrowing in 2012 and might need a second bailout, causing jitters on international markets about Ireland's credibility.[6][7] Many of Varadkar's cabinet colleagues were not impressed with Varadkar's forthrightness; nor was the European Central Bank.[8][9] Taoiseach Enda Kenny repeated the Government line that the State would not require a further EU-IMF bailout and said he had warned all ministers against making negative public remarks about the economy.[10][11] Varadkar said that reaction to the story was hyped up but that he was not misquoted.[12] Responding to Varadkar's decision to express his opinion in public, Independent News & Media's Evening Herald paper described the minister as gaffe prone, as it had also done previously.[13][14]

Minister for Health: 2014–2016

In the cabinet reshuffle of July 2014, Varadkar replaced James Reilly as Minister for Health.[15][16]

He was returned to the Dáil at the February 2016 general election. He retained the health portfolio in an acting capacity until May that year, due to a delay in government formation. In one of his final acts as Minister for Health, Varadkar cut €12 million from the €35 million allocated to that year's budget for mental health care. He was reported as having told the Dáil that the cuts were "necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere."[17]

Minister for Social Protection: 2016–present

On 6 May 2016, after government formation talks had concluded, Enda Kenny appointed Varadkar as Minister for Social Protection.[18]

Personal life

During an interview on RTÉ Radio on 18 January 2015 (his 36th birthday), Varadkar spoke publicly for the first time about being gay: "it’s not something that defines me. 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".[19] This made him the first openly gay cabinet member in Ireland,.[20] Varadkar was a prominent advocate of the same-sex marriage referendum.[21][22]


  1. "The Saturday Interview". The Irish Times. 20 November 2010.
  2. 1 2 "Leo Varadkar". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  3. "Mr. Leo Varadkar". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 8 September 2009.
  4. "Noonan named as new Finance Minister". RTÉ News. 9 March 2011.
  5. Sheahan, Fionnan (15 September 2011). "'True blue' Varadkar gets red card as Dáil officials flag problem". Irish Independent.
  6. "To borrow a phrase, Minister". The Irish Times. 1 June 2011.
  7. Bartha, Emese; Quinn, Eamon (30 May 2011). "Bond Auctions Test Contagion Fears". The Wall Street Journal.
  8. Collins, Stephen; Beesley, Arthur (31 May 2011). "Cabinet colleagues angered at Varadkar bailout view". The Irish Times.
  9. Noonan, Laura (10 June 2011). "Trichet talks 'verbal discipline' after Leo's gaffe". Irish Independent.
  10. O'Regan, Michael; O'Halloran, Marie (31 May 2011). "State 'won't require' second bailout". The Irish Times.
  11. Sheahan, Fionnan; Kelpie, Colm (1 June 2011). "Kenny lays down law to ministers after Varadkar's gaffe on bailout". Irish Independent.
  12. "Bailout comments were 'hyped up' – Varadkar". RTÉ News. 2 June 2011.
  13. "New gaffe is just one of a growing list". Evening Herald. 30 May 2011.
  14. "Leo won't become king of the political jungle with his roaring gaffes". Evening Herald. 5 September 2008.
  15. "Taoiseach announces new Cabinet". RTÉ News. 11 July 2014. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  16. Kelly, Fiach (11 July 2014). "Leo Varadkar to replace Reilly as Minister for Health". The Irish Times. Retrieved 11 July 2014.
  17. McKeowen, Michael (27 April 2016). "Varadkar: 'Mental health funding cuts were not supposed to happen but they are necessary as the funding could be better used elsewhere'". Archived from the original on 7 May 2016.
  18. http://www.irishmirror.ie/news/irish-news/politics/leo-varadkar-insists-new-ministry-7920880
  19. "Leo Varadkar: 'I am a gay man', Minister says". The Irish Times. 18 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  20. "Irish Cabinet member tells nation he's gay, becomes Ireland's 1st openly gay government minister". Fox News.
  21. "Leo Varadkar: 'I wanted to be an equal citizen . . . and today I am'". The Irish Times.
  22. Nial O'Connor (23 May 2015). "10 factors behind the 'Yes' side's victory". Independent.ie.

External links

Preceded by
Joe Higgins
(Socialist Party)
Fine Gael Teachta Dála for Dublin West
Political offices
Preceded by
Pat Carey
as Minister for Transport
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
Succeeded by
Paschal Donohoe
Preceded by
James Reilly
Minister for Health
Succeeded by
Simon Harris
Preceded by
Joan Burton
Minister for Social Protection
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