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Leo Varadkar, Irish prime minister, announces ‘surprise’ resignation

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced Wednesday his intention to resign, a move he acknowledged would be a “surprise to many people.”

“This is as good a time as any” to step down, he said in a news conference, adding that his reasons for resigning were “both personal and political.”

When Varadkar in 2017 assumed the office of prime minister, or taoiseach in Irish, he made history as the youngest, first openly gay and first person from an ethnic-minority background to lead Ireland. He is the son of an Irish mother and an Indian immigrant father.

Varadkar recounted Wednesday what he sees as high points of his time in office, during which he shepherded Ireland through Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic and improved unemployment and budget shortfalls. He leaves behind a record as one of Europe’s most progressive leaders.

This month, Varadkar accepted defeat as an attempted referendum on International Women’s Day to alter language in Ireland’s constitution failed. The effort sought to change an outdated and unpopular clause in the constitution about a woman’s “life within the home,” but disagreement over the proposed new language contributed to its failure to pass.

Last week, President Biden hosted Varadkar and his husband, Matthew Barrett, at the White House to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. In remarks at the White House, Varadkar — one of the most outspoken supporters of the Palestinians among European leaders — set out his views on Irish empathy for the plight of the Palestinians.

“We see our history in their eyes — a story of displacement, of dispossession and national identity questioned and denied, forced emigration, discrimination, and now hunger,” he said, thanking Biden for his efforts to “secure a humanitarian cease-fire” and “create the space for lasting peace.”

Varadkar on Wednesday said he hoped the current three-party coalition would be reelected. “After careful consideration, and some soul searching, I believe that a new taoiseach and a new leader will be better placed than me to achieve that,” he said.

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