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File image of Leo Varadkar, who announced his resignation this afternoon Alamy Stock Photo

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

Varadkar has asked for a new leader to be elected in advance of the Fine Gael Ard Fheis on 6 April.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has announced that a new Fine Gael party leader will be announced before 6 April. 

Varadkar has announced that he is resigning as the leader of Fine Gael effective today, and will resign as Taoiseach as soon as his successor is able to take up office.

Fine Gael’s Ard Fheis will be held on Saturday, 6 April and Varadkar said he has asked for a new leader to be elected in advance of this. 

Varadkar said this will “allow a new Taoiseach to be elected when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break”.

He will continue as Taoiseach until a new Taoiseach is elected and added that he will remain as a TD for Dublin West. 

However, he did not confirm whether he would stand for this seat in the next general election. 

Tánaiste Michaél Martin today said he will support the coalition government and that it should see out its full term to create “stability”. 

Martin added that it is a “coalition of three parties, not personalities”. 

So what happens next?

Varadkar won the last leadership election within Fine Gael, which was held in 2017 when Enda Kenny stepped down as party leader.

That contest was held between Varadkar and now Enterprise Minister Simon Coveney.

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 six Fine Gael TDs, Senators, or MEPs would need to back a candidate for them 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%

Regional meetings are then organised to provide the party membership with an opportunity to meet the candidates. 

Councillors and party members vote on the same day and at the same venues over the country, while Parliamentary Party members cast their vote at a special Parliamentary Party meeting. 

Fine Gael’s executive council – the group that takes core organisational decisions for the party and is elected at the party’s Ard Fheis – fixes the date and venue of the polling and regional meetings. 

Following this vote, Varadkar will vacate the office of Taoiseach and the Dáil would then have to elect a Taoiseach by voting in the chamber.

However, People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy has already called for “the people to have the right to decide” who the next Taoiseach is. 

“The decision on the next Taoiseach should not be made by the Fine Gael parliamentary party,” said Murphy on X.

“We need a general election.”

The Dáil must be dissolved within five years of first meeting, meaning an election needs to be held before 22 March. 

However, the government has the power to call for an general election earlier than that date. 


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