Ireland became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage in 2015. The decision called for public celebrations, as the move was seen as a groundbreaking achievement, with countries all around the world commending the new Irish law. However, little did people know, back in 2015, that one of the many people rejoicing among the crowd, one day, two years from then to be precise, will go on becoming the next Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister).
This Thursday, June 15, 2017, marks history after Leo Varadkar was officially confirmed as the next Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland.
The son of an Indian immigrant with roots in India’s Mumbai, the 38-year-old is openly gay. Everything about this election is historic because, along with becoming the first gay prime minister of Ireland, he would also become the country’s youngest leader and the first from an ethnic minority background.
Soon after he was elected Ireland’s prime minister Varadkar said, “if my election today shows anything, it is just that prejudice has no hold in this Republic.” He also mentioned about his father who had traveled 5,000 miles to build a new home in Ireland. This was perhaps a critical result in the history of the country because Varadkar got elected despite being young and gay; someone, who otherwise would not have been considered. This further marks another significant step forward for equality in the country.
Who Is Leo Varadkar?
Mr. Varadkar was born on January 18, 1979, in Dublin. His father, Ashok was a doctor from Mumbai, met his mother while at work. The country in which he grew up was very different from that of today, with homosexuality and divorce being illegal. The 38-year-old has come to embody the liberalization of a country which was once regarded as one of the most socially conservative nations in Europe. He has won the race for the leadership of Fine Gael-the biggest party in Ireland’s ruling coalition. Dubbed as the Celtic Tiger, the Indian native would succeed outgoing Enda Kenny in the next few weeks.
(Image Courtesy: Reuters)
Prejudice Has No Hold
Although much of the media coverage that the prime minister received was because of his age, sexuality, and ethnicity, he emphasized on the fact that Ireland has changed over the last decade and it has become more embracing to modern social customs. In one of the interviews he took after being elected, he highlighted that his victory is not only his but also Ireland’s as it has proved yet again, after 2005, that there is no place for prejudice in the country.
(Image Courtesy: The Irish Sun)
He further added that children growing up in Ireland now would look up to him, and his unlikely story and background and perhaps say to themselves, that there is no office in this state that I can't aspire to, nothing that they can't do if they believe in themselves.
His Major Agendas
Mr. Varadkar said his party would represent those who got up early. The leader who has also been the health and sports minister of his country previously said that restoring devolution in Northern Ireland and dealing with Brexit would be immediate priorities. Although the opposition, including his opponent in the prime ministerial race Simon Coveney, has portrayed Varadkar as a right-wing ideologue, pointing to a recent campaign against benefit cheats. The Celtic Tiger has said that he has an internationalist outlook and he sees himself in the same mold as the French President, President Emmanuel Macron or the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - an active, dynamic, centrist leader.
(Image Courtesy: Independent.ie)
This election is a groundbreaking move in the history of not only Ireland but the world politics, as it sends out a message that the world is now more acceptable towards people with different sexual orientations. More than the victory of a young leader, this is the victory of Irish people and the LGBTQ community all around the world. As for Mr. Varadkar, his political brand has taken him so far, but with a critical challenge of England’s exit from the European Union (EU) coming up, which would also be joined by Northern Ireland; sterner tests are still to come.
(Featured Image Courtesy: Sky News)