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Indian-origin gay minister is front-runner in race for Irish PM

Leo Varadkar, 38, the Dublin-born son of a Mumbai-born father and Irish mother, is expected to become the country’s first homosexual prime minister in elections in early June.

world Updated: May 21, 2017 23:41 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
leo varadkar
Ireland's minister for social protection Leo Varadkar launches his campaign bid for Fine Gael party leader in Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday.(Reuters)

Leo Varadkar, son of a Mumbai-born doctor and Ireland’s first openly gay minister, is in the forefront to succeed Enda Kenny as the country’s prime minister.

If elected, the Irish welfare minister will become yet another Indian origin head of state or government.

Varadkar, 38, is the youngest child of Ashok Varadkar, who met his future wife Miriam, a nurse, while working in the National Health Service in England in the 1960s.

Varadkar, who was a practising doctor before joining politics and being elected in 2007, made news in 2015 when he came out as a gay, an announcement that was initially met with some shock by his father, but who he said was later “very supportive”.

He faces housing minister Simon Coveney in the contest for the next prime minister, to be decided by June 2.

Kenny stepped down this week as leader after six years as the prime minister. Varadkar is reported to enjoy much support in the ruling Fine Gael party and ministers.

After Kenny resigned, Varadkar said he had “given hope to a battered and bruised Ireland in 2011…His dedication and determination gave Fine Gael a landslide in that year’s general election.”

“But more importantly, he brought this country back from the brink of economic collapse, and offered political stability when countries across Europe were staring into the abyss.”

About the top job, a cautious Varadkar told Sky News: “I’m not counting my chickens. I’m really humbled at the level of support I have received from my colleagues and I am really looking forward to the hustings and the debates.”

However, his rival, Coveney, said: “Leo’s got off to a good start but there’s two weeks to go so we’ll see how that plays out”.

Varadkar came out as a gay when Ireland became the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage through popular vote.

In a coming-out speech he gave in a radio interview, he said: “It is not something that defines me. I am not a half- Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It is just part of who I am, it does not define me, it is the part of my character I suppose.”

He minister has campaigned on same-sex marriage and liberalising abortion laws. (with inputs from agencies)