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As it happened: Govt insists election not needed in wake of Varadkar resignation

“After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for that job,” Leo Varadkar said today.


LEO VARADKAR ANNOUNCED his resignation as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader in a shock announcement at Government Buildings this afternoon.

At about 12.15pm, Varadkar confirmed he would step down as president and leader of Fine Gael. He said he hopes a new leader will be elected by 6 April when the party will hold its Ard Fheis.

In an emotional statement, he said politicians are human beings who can only give so much before they have to “move on”.

Varadkar noted that the reasons for his decision are “both personal and political”.

“After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for that job,” he said. 

Varadkar will continue to fulfil his duties as Taoiseach until a new leader of Fine Gael is chosen. He will also stay on as a TD for his Dublin West constituency.

Here’s what you need to know:

Here’s how the day played out: 

Leo Varadkar is set to step down as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, according to multiple sources. He is expected to make an announcement at midday.

The Cabinet has been meeting in Government Buildings today in advance of the announcement. The Irish Independent first broke the news this morning.

First elected Taoiseach in June 2017, Varadkar was a member of Fingal County Council from 2003 to 2007, and was elected to Dáil Éireann for the Dublin West constituency in 2007 and was re-elected to a fourth term in 2020.

Varadkar first served as Taoiseach from 2017 to 2020, holding the role again from December 2022 until now.

He served as Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment from June 2020 to December 2022.

He also previously served as Minister for Social Protection (2016 to 2017), Minister for Health (2014 to 2016), and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (2011 to 2014).

Earlier this morning there was speculation Varadkar would call a general election, but that’s not the case.

Our political reporter Jane Matthews is down at Government Buildings for the imminent announcement.

A general election is not expected to be called, but some members of the opposition would like one…


And he’s gone.

Leo Varadkar has resigned as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader.

He made the announcement at Government Buildings today, joined by ministers Helen McEntee, Paschal Donohoe, Heather Humphreys, Hildegarde Naughton, Simon Harris and Simon Coveney. 

Varadkar has confirmed he is stepping down as Taoiseach and Fine Gael Leader, but not calling a general election. He will remain in place until his successor is elected by the party.

“It has been the most fulfilling time of my life,” he said of his time as Taoiseach.

Becoming emotional during his speech, he said he was stepping down for both “personal and political” reasons. He said he does not have another job lined up.

Varadkar told reporters the new Fine Gael leader will have two months to prepare for the European and local elections in June. 

'A surprise to many and a disappointment to some'

In his statement, Varadkar said he knows his announcement “will come as a surprise to many and a disappointment to some”.

He has asked Fine Gael’s General Secretary and Executive Council to provide for the new Leader to be elected in advance of the party’s Ard Fheis on Saturday, 6 April, thus allowing a new Taoiseach to be elected when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break.

He said: “There is never a ‘right time’ to resign high office. However, this is as good a time as any – Budget 2024 is done, and negotiations have not yet commenced on the next one.

“The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are working again, and our trading relationship with the United Kingdom, in the post-Brexit era, is settled and stable.

“The new Taoiseach will have a full two months to prepare for the Local and European Elections, and up to a year before the next General Election.

“My reasons for stepping down now are personal and political, but mainly political.

“I believe this Government can be re-elected. I believe my Party, Fine Gael, can gain seats in the next Dáil. Most of all, I believe that would be the right thing for the future of our country, continuing to take us forward. Protecting what we achieved and building on it.”

'I am no longer the best person for that job'

He continued: “After careful consideration and some soul-searching, I believe a new Taoiseach will be better-placed than me to achieve that – to renew and strengthen the top team, to refocus our message and policies, and to drive implementation.

“After seven years in office, I am no longer the best person for that job.

“There are loyal colleagues and good friends contesting the Local & European Elections and I want to give them the best chance possible. I think they will now have a better chance under a new Leader.

“In standing aside, I can do so in the absolute confidence that the country and the economy are in a good place, and that my colleagues in the Government from all three parties, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens, and the Oireachtas will continue to work hard for the nation’s best interests.

“On a personal level, I have enjoyed being Taoiseach, Leader and a Cabinet member since March 2011. I have learned so much about so many things, met people who I would never have got to meet, been to places I would never have seen, both home and abroad. I am deeply grateful for it and would wholeheartedly recommend a career in politics to anyone considering it.

“However, politicians are human beings. We have our limitations. We give it everything until we can’t anymore and then we have to move on.

“I will, of course, continue to fulfil my duties as Taoiseach until a new Taoiseach is elected and will remain as a constituency TD for Dublin West.

“I know, inevitably, there will be speculation as to the ‘real reason’ for my decision. These are the real reasons. That’s it. I have nothing else lined up or in mind. No definite personal or political plans, but I am looking forward to having the time to think about them.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Party, my coalition partners Micheál [Martin] and Eamon [Ryan], Constituents, colleagues and staff for their loyalty and their phenomenal work, and will also thank them in person in the near future.

“Most of all, I’d like to finish by thanking the people of Ireland for giving me the opportunity to serve them. I promise I will keep working for Ireland and my community in any way I can in the future.”


Fine Gael, of course, haven’t elected a new leader since 2017 when Enda Kenny stepped down, making way for Varadkar. 

Kenny’s departure had long been expected but the veteran Mayo TD repeatedly refused to say when exactly he would step aside.

He eventially told voters he would not seek a third term as Taoiseach in advance of 2016′s spring general election. From the following summer, some party members were vocal in stating they wanted a clear indication of when he would be stepping down.

The then-Taoiseach, who was also the longest-serving TD in the Dáil, faced down the threat of a motion of no confidence and chose to ignore calls from some younger members of the party who took to the airwaves to say his position was untenable.

However, in the background of all this, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, the apparent front-runners to take his job, were getting in election mode. 

Varadkar walked the subsequent election campaign and became Taoiseach on 14 June 2017. 

Tánaiste and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said Leo Varadkar told him and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan last night that he planned on resigning. 

“I was surprised, very surprised, I didn’t expect it at all,” Martin admitted. 

Martin thanked Varadkar for his service, noting: “On a personal level, we got on well.”

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy has called for a general election to be held.

In a statement released in the last few minutes, Murphy said: “It is absolutely clear that we need a general election following the resignation of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach.

“This government is presiding over a shocking housing crisis and a crisis in health and cost of living. The people need to be given the opportunity to decide on who will lead the country, not the Fine Gael party.”

Here is the moment Varadkar made the shock announcement.

The Journal / YouTube

He cited his reasons for leaving as “both personal and political”.

Ibec, Ireland’s largest lobby and business representative group, has thanked Varadkar for “his enormous contribution to public service, particularly in his engagement on issues of importance to the business community”.

Danny McCoy, Ibec CEO, said: “Throughout his time as Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Social Protection, Minister for Health, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and as Minister for Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, he consistently demonstrated a willingness to work with Ibec and understand the needs of business, recognising its critical role in the prosperity of the country and its potential to transform our country as a whole.

“On an individual level, he provided much-needed direction, leadership, and reassurance for businesses struggling to grapple with the early stages of the pandemic. We wish him well for the future.”

Speaking on RTÉ News, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he was shocked by Varadkar’s decision.

Varadkar informed Ryan and Micheál Martin of his intentions last night.

Ryan said he and Varadkar disagreed on many issues but got on well as colleagues. He wished Varadkar well in the future, and would not be drawn on who he would like to succeed him.

Speaking on RTÉ News, Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil-Green coalition is now clearly unstable.

She said the Government has “run out of steam, run out of energy, run out of ambition”. 

People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett also called for an election to be held, telling RTÉ that the Irish people should decide the next leader of the country, not Fine Gael. 

“To be honest, I was surprised when I heard what he was going to do,” Martin told reporters outside Government Buildings in the last few minutes.

The Journal / YouTube

It may be entirely coincidental but RTÉ Radio One just played Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day, followed by Teardrops (Footsteps On The Dancefloor) by Womack & Womack.


Colum Eastwood says Varadkar was 'strong voice' for people in NI during Brexit

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has paid tribute to Varadkar’s service as Taoiseach, following the announcement of his resignation. 

Eastwood said that Varadkar was a “strong voice for people in Northern Ireland” during the Brexit negotiations. 

The SDLP leader also said that “as an LGBT+ leader from a minority ethnic community”, Varadkar also provided “visibility and inspiration to many across our Island who have not felt represented in the institutions of Government before”. 

Speaking further on Varadkar’s contributions to Brexit negotiations, Eastwood said: 

“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.

“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.”

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns is among the opposition TDs calling for a general election. 

“The writing is on the wall for this government, even the Taoiseach can see that,” she said.

Full speech

You can read Leo Varadkar’s full resignation speech here.

“I know, inevitably, there will be speculation as to the ‘real reason’ for my decision. These are the real reasons. That’s it. I have nothing else lined up or in mind.”

What happens next?

How will the new Fine Gael leader be elected and when will we have a new Taoiseach?

Each party has different ways and means of electing its leaders, and the rules for Fine Gael are defined with Rule 49 of the Fine Gael Constitution and Rules.

It states that candidates must be members of Dáil Éireann and must be nominated in writing by at least 10% of the Parliamentary Party within seven days of the vacancy arising.

This means at least 10 Fine Gael TDs or Senators would needed for a candidate to be nominated.

That rule outlines that party leaders are elected via an Electoral College system, consisting of the Parliamentary Party (TDs, Senators and MEPs), public representatives (councillors), and any other party members.

A voting weight is attached to each grouping, which goes as follows:

  • Parliamentary party 65%
  • Party membership 25%
  • Councillors 10%

Diarmuid Pepper breaks it down in full here.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has offered his “sincere thanks” to Varadkar for his work as Taoiseach.

Ryan said his coalition colleague “has been an energetic and committed leader of the country who was always supportive of his government colleagues”.

“It’s worth noting that the agreement at the start of this Government was between the three coalition parties, not the three leaders. That agreement stands, particularly in light of the important work that this Government has to do.

“The Green Party looks forward to the the conclusion of the Fine Gael leadership contest and the election of a new Taoiseach by Dáil Éireann.

In the interim, the important work of Government continues and the three coalition parties will continue to fulfil our mandate, just as we have done over the last three and a half years.

“I would like to offer my good wishes to Leo as he prepares to depart the Taoiseach’s office. He has served the country well and can be proud of the contribution he has made to Irish political life.”

Calls for a general election

There are mounting calls from the opposition for a general election to be held.

For what it’s worth, a general election is not expected to be called.

Varadkar’s resignation as Fine Gael leader is effective immediately, but he will resign as Taoiseach “as soon as my successor is able to take up that office”.

The timeline provided by Varadkar is that a new leader could be selected by Fine Gael members before the party’s Ard Fheis on 6 April.

As set out by Rónán Duffy here, this would mean that, in theory, Fine Gael could propose a Taoiseach after the Dáil resumes following the Easter recess on 9 April.

Should the party’s coalition colleagues in Fianna Fáil and the Green Party support this nomination in a Dáil vote, there would be no need for a general election.

Manfred Weber, President of the European People’s Party (Fine Gael is a member of the EU political grouping), has paid tribute to Varadkar.

“We thank you for the enormous contribution that you have made to Fine Gael, to Irish and European politics,” he said.

Sinn Féin calls for general election

In her first remarks since Varadkar’s shock announcement, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said we are at “a critical moment in Irish politics”.

Speaking directly to Varadkar during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil, McDonald said the decision of who will run the country “must be placed in the hands of the people”.

“Today’s announcement can have only one conclusion  – the calling of a general election,” she said.

“Another Fine Gael Taoiseach is not what people want,” she told the Dáil, adding that the Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil-Green coalition has “run out of steam and run out of road”. 

Varadkar reiterated that he does not intent to call an election in the immediate future.

Replying to McDonald, he said: “There will be a general election within a year, there has to be.”

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns has also called for a general election to be held without delay.

During Leaders’ Questions she wished Varadkar well on a personal level, but also noted that his party has overseen massive crises in housing, health, disability and climate over the last 14 years.

“We don’t need a new Fine Gael leader… We need a general election,” she said.

“We need a real change in Ireland…. Calling an election now is the only way out of this mess for so may people.”

Deck chairs on the Titanic

People Before Profit-Solidarity TD Richard Boyd Barrett is up next. He also wants a general election to be called.

Referring to Fine Gael electing a new leader, and therefore a new Taoiseach, he told the Dáil:

We don’t need a shifting of the deck chairs on the Titanic.

He said, given how rich Ireland is, it’s “shameful” that we have such a massive homelessness crisis. He criticised how the Government has handled issues like hospital overcrowding and disability services.

He said it’s also shameful that tens of thousands of young people don’t think they have a future in Ireland and instead are choosing to emigrate.

“The people, not Fine Gael, should now decide who leads the next government,” he said.

'Nothing personal but good riddance to Leo Varadkar'

Joan Collins, a Right to Change TD, has also called for an immediate general election.

“Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan might be happy to let Fine Gael TDs decide who our next Taoiseach will be, but we think the people should decide who leads our country.

This Government has lost what little mandate it had.

“It has left many ordinary people unable to get homes, doctor appointments or access to basic public services. It has left a whole generation struggling to find a home, pay rent or having to leave this country.

“Nothing personal but good riddance to Leo Varadkar, now this whole Government needs to go,” Collins said in a statement. 

Echoing this sentiment, Labour Leader Ivana Bacik said it is “utterly untenable that we would see this Government remain in office” after today’s “deeply destabilising news”.

“The resignation of An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar underscores the urgent need for the people, not Fine Gael, to determine the future leadership of our country.

It is not the prerogative of any one party to dictate who should lead Ireland. The people must decide who is best equipped to address the pressing issues facing our nation.

“To solve the housing crisis, to end child poverty, and to reduce hospital waiting lists, we need visionary leadership focused on the needs of the people. Fine Gael’s tenure has seen these challenges persist and worsen. It’s time for a new approach, one driven by compassion, innovation, and a genuine commitment to the well-being of all citizens.

“And how can Fianna Fáil and the Green Party prop up this chaos? The only way to ensure that the people’s voices are heard and their concerns addressed is through a general election. Fine Gael need to do the right thing and go to the people now,” Bacik said in a statement issued in the last few minutes.

We have a round-up of the opposition members calling for a general election here.

Who will take over as Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader?

Will it be Simon Coveney, Simon Harris, Helen McEntee, Paschal Donohoe, Heather Humphreys or someone else?

Let us know what you think in our poll.

Despite expressing his surprise at Varadkar’s decision to resign, Tánaiste Micheál Martin has insisted the Government is stable and that a general election is not needed.

Speaking to the media outside Government Buildings, Martin said members of the public want politicians to focus on the “day-to-day issues“.

“I remain committed to the continuation of Government, to the fulfillment of our mandate, and to the implementation of the Programme for Government.

“There are still very serious issues to be dealt with – housing, education, health, climate, energy.

“We’re going to continue to focus on getting that work done,” he said.

Seán Kelly, Fine Gael MEP in Ireland South, said he is “both surprised and disappointed” by Varadkar’s resignation.

He said Varadkar was “an excellent, young, and modern Taoiseach who has led the country and the party exceptionally well”.

“He is an enormous loss to Fine Gael and to Ireland, but he leaves behind a great legacy as leader and as a public representative for the past 20 years.”

During Leaders’ Questions, Mary Lou McDonald led calls for a general election.

“Fine Gael has been in Government for way too long. They have failed on housing, on health, and have failed to tackle the cost-of-living crisis,” she said. 

“The Government has now run out of steam and run out of road.”

Read Diarmuid Pepper’s report on the Dáil exchanges here.

The publication of a landmark report from the TDs and senators on the Assisted Dying Committee has been somewhat overshadowed today by the announcement of Varadkar’s resignation. 

Our reporter Eimer McAuley was the only reporter to attend the launch of the report in the AV Room at Leinster House this afternoon. 

You can find our initial piece on the report here. Eimer will have more on the subject on the site later this evening, but in the meantime she’s sent this on for the liveblog: 

The committee’s report on assisted dying has recommended that the Government introduces legislation allowing the practice, but not without a long list of safeguards. 

The move is a significant development and could see laws introduced that campaigners -  including the late Marie Fleming – have fought long and hard for.

Politicians at the launch event today acknowledged that introducing this legislation will in all likelihood be a matter for the next Government.

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson David Cullinane said that these laws “cannot be rushed”.

When asked if Leo Varadkar’s resignation as Taoiseach had taken away attention from the important work of the committee, Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery-Kearny said that the two issues should not be connected, and that committee reports are published regularly within the Oireachtas.

Solidarity-People Before Profit TD Gino Kenny said the Taoiseach’s resignation has inevitably “taken away some of the shine” from the committee’s report.

Fianna Fáil TD John Lahart acknowledged that it has been a struggle to get the public and media to engage with this complex and emotive topic, and voiced his view that the nature of legislation on assisted dying should be put before “the public” at some stage – a suggestion that raised eyebrows, and is not part of the report’s recommendations.

The report recommends many different restrictions that should be put in place before someone would be able to avail of assisted dying, and also recommends that if any person fails to adhere to assisted dying laws, it would be a criminal offence.

TD Michael Healy-Rae and Senator Rónán Mullen are set to launch their alternative report, which posits that assisted dying should not be legislated for, shortly. 

We’re going to end our rolling coverage here. 

Leo Varadkar is still responding to questions in the Dáil at the moment and the Fine Gael parliamentary party is due to meet shortly. 

We should have more details on the leadership election later this evening, and will have updates on the main site as they become clear. 

Thanks for joining us. 

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