This blog post is about Leo Varadkar, who last month was made the Taoiseach (Prime Minister of Ireland), making him the world’s fourth openly gay head of government. If this was not a feat in and of itself, Varadkar is the youngest person to hold this office and also the first person from an ethnic minority background to do this.
Born in 1979 in Dublin, Varadkar was born to an Indian father and Irish Catholic mother as the youngest of their children and also the only boy. In his adolescence he went to The King’s Hospital, a private school. It was here that Varadkar first showed an active participation in the political process, joining Fine Gael (the very same party that he is associated with to the present day). He later went to Trinity College, Dublin where he studied medicine after a brief flirtation with studying law. While at university Varadkar was active in Young Fine Gael, also serving as the vice-president of the youth wing of the Christian Democrat group, The European People’s Party. Varadkar clearly stood out as an obvious leader among peers as he was selected for the Washington Ireland Program, a prestigious program whose intention was to prepare young people for leadership roles. Graduating from medical school in 2003, he worked first as a junior doctor in St James’s Hospital and Connolly Hospital before qualifying as a GP in 2010.
Simultaneously with his medical career, Varadkar was becoming involved with politics. In 2003, he became a councillor on Fingal County Council for the Castleknock area having previously contested the 1999 local elections in the Mulhuddart area. Varadkar was elected to the Dáil Éireann in 2007 and became the spokesperson for the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, holding this post from 2007 and 2010. Following the 2011 general election, he was appointed the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. This was of great bemusement to Varadkar himself due to his lack of renown as a sports lover. In 2014, after a cabinet reshuffle, Varadkar became the Minister for Health which some considered an ideal position considering his position as a medical professional. After government formation in 2016, Varadkar was once again moved to the Department of Social Protection. In 2017, Varadkar became the leader of Fine Gael due primarily to the support of the party’s parliamentarians whereas his opponent had more member support. Varadkar then became the Taoiseach with the support of Independents and the abstention of Fianna Fáil to support his premiership.
Yet, despite his importance as a gay parliamentarian of great authority, Varadkar has made it clear that being a member of the LGBT+ community is not something that he wishes to define him. Yet it cannot be understated how important a figure Varadkar is. There are only two current LGBT+ heads of government in the world currently, so Varadkar is of great importance to the LGBT+ community as a prime example of what an LGBT+ person can achieve.