As expected, Leo Varadkar has been elected leader of Ireland’s ruling Fine Gael party, CNN reports. After formal confirmation from parliamentary members on June 13, he is set to become Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister.
Varadkar will also make history as Ireland’s first unmarried prime minister, or taoiseach, as well as its youngest at 38. As the son of an Indian immigrant, he will also be the country’s first prime minister of Asian descent.
He declared that the election results proved that “prejudice has no hold on this Republic.”
Although the former minister for social protection is fiscally conservative, many are comparing him to Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau and new French president Emmanuel Macron because of his progressive politics. His campaign slogan was “Taking Ireland Forward.”
While serving as minister of health, Varadkar first opened up publicly about his sexuality in January 2015, prior to campaigning for the government’s referendum in support of same-sex marriage, which passed later that year. “It’s not something that defines me,” he said.
Irish Times points out that Varadkar, who is in a two-year relationship, will only be the fourth openly gay head of government in modern European history, following Iceland’s Jóhanna Sigurdardottir, Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo, and Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel.
International pundits are pointing to Varadkar’s success as a signifier that the largely Catholic country is moving away from conservative traditionalism.
“What it does mean is that gay and lesbian people are now seen as incredibly ordinary,” says Andrew Hyland, former director of Ireland’s marriage equality campaign. “As far as I can see, it hasn’t been an issue at all in the leadership contest.”