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Varadkar arriving at Áras an Uachtaráin this evening. Sasko Lazarov
so long Leo

Leo Varadkar officially resigns as Taoiseach at Áras an Uachtaráin

Varadkar’s resignation was accepted by President Michael D Higgins today.

LEO VARADKAR HAS resigned as Taoiseach.

The former Fine Gael leader tendered his resignation in writing to President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin this evening.

Varadkar made the shock announcement last month that he was stepping down as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael.

Simon Harris was duly selected by Fine Gael to replace Varadkar as leader, and will almost certainly replace him as Taoiseach when the Dáil reconvenes tomorrow.

Despite having resigned, Varadkar will continue to exercise the duties and functions of the Taoiseach until his successor is appointed.

Harris has to secure a majority of votes in the Dáil tomorrow afternoon, before he travels to Áras an Uachtaráin to be formally appointed as Taoiseach.

While the President formally appoints the Taoiseach, they are bound by the Constitution to appoint whoever is chosen by the Dáil.

Final interview as Taoiseach

Varadkar gave his last media interview to RTÉ’s Six One News this evening before he travelled to the Áras, in which he defended his record in office and listed what he called his achievements.

“You know, certainly having the privilege to lead the country to the early stage of the pandemic, saving a lot of lives, a lot of businesses, a lot of jobs,” he said.

It’s widely accepted that Ireland, outperformed most other countries when it came to the management of the pandemic.

He also said that Ireland had a positive economic outlook that was “the envy of Europe and the envy of the world”.

“Maybe we take it a bit for granted now. I don’t think we should but it gives us the possibility to invest in health, housing, education to an extent that other countries can’t, we couldn’t in the past,” he said.

He also helping to make Ireland “a more modern place” where there was greater equality was also something he was proud of.

He said that if he had any regrets it was “excessive caution at certain points”.

He said that during the recession in 2011 and 2012, when Fine Gael first came into power, and later following the pandemic, Government should have invested more in areas of the economy, like housing.

“When the pandemic happened, we never thought that the economy would bounce back so quickly,” he said.

“And because of that, there were big investment decisions, big spending decisions that we could have made, you know, a year or two earlier.

That would have put us in a better position today when it comes to things like housing, for example. But unfortunately, that was the advice at the time and we took it and it’s easy with hindsight to know these things that we didn’t know at the time.  

Varadkar said that people are less polite than they were in the past and are “encouraged to be angry” and that “anger is celebrated in the way that it wasn’t in the past”.

He said it was his plan to take a holiday this summer and consider “a few interesting offers that have come my way which I’ll be able to explore over the summer period when I get a chance to take that break”.

Last official engagement

Varadkar’s last official engagement as Taoiseach was in Armagh at the North-South Ministerial Council, which had not met for almost three years.

He told The Journal today that making up his mind to step down as Taoiseach was hard, but said he has had “no regrets” over the decision.

“I am glad that attending the North-South Ministerial Council was my last official function before formally tendering my resignation.

“When Brexit happened, a huge amount of work was put in to ensuring there was no hard border between north and south, that our place in the European Union would be protected and the Good Friday Agreement upheld.

“There may not have been many votes in it, but it is satisfying to see the institutions operating again, politicians in the North working together and the post-Brexit trading arrangements largely settled.”

In Armagh today, Tánaiste Micheál Martin paid tribute to Varadkar and his public service, while Northern Ireland’s First Minister Michelle O’Neill and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly wished him well for the future. 

 With reporting from Christina Finn

  

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