Leo Varadkar resignation: Fine Gael TDs ‘shocked’ and ‘surprised’ by announcement

Unexpected statement by Taoiseach ‘a bolt out of the blue’ for many of party’s elected officials

Fine Gael TDs have said they were “completely shocked” and “surprised” by Leo Varadkar’s Wednesday afternoon announcement on his decision to step down as Taoiseach and leader of the party.

Speaking outside Government Buildings on Wednesday, Mr Varadkar cited both “personal and political” reasons.

Dublin Fingal TD Alan Farrell said he was “completely taken aback” by Mr Varakar’s announcement and that TDs were not told in advance.

“I had no inclination of it at all, other than what appeared on my phone at about maybe 11.40am that he was intent on resigning,” he said.


“I don’t really know what to make of it, I respect personal decisions not to continue in a particular role. I’ve seen that with a number of colleagues who’ve decided to stand down or retire. His is no different, but obviously the decision is much more significant in terms of the party and what we’ll do next.”

The Fine Gael TD added: “The decision is made ... I won’t say that my preference is for someone else to lead the party into the next local, European and general elections. But, we’re now in the position where that will be the case so it’s just a matter for the individuals who might put their names forward to approach members of the parliamentary party and announce their candidacies as we have experienced before.”

Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said he was “absolutely surprised” by the announcement and that it was “a complete shock”.

“I don’t think anybody had any idea, it’s a bolt out of the blue. He’s done his bit, made his decision and handing his reins over.

“It’s a shock at the moment but obviously a contest is a healthy thing in politics and it will bring out policy differences in policy and priorities.

“You can appoint a leader but I think if you vote, and every party member can vote, it will renew the party and it can be done and will have to be done very quickly. It’s good for renewal even if it’s unexpected. I was always down as a supporter of Leo and had confidence in his capacity and ability. I’m disappointed but we will have to move on.”

Galway East TD Ciarán Cannon, who announced earlier this week that he will not run in the next general election, said Mr Varadkar had “given his all”.

“It’s been a privilege to serve with him. Anyone who knows him as a colleague, knows how committed he was, how ambitious he was for Ireland,” he said.

“I think we saw in him today the frailty, the things that make us human. You saw a man who had given it his all and had the courage and maturity to say so.”

Sligo-Leitrim TD Frank Feighan said he was surprised to hear of the announcement and looked forward to the upcoming leadership contest.

“Politics is a bit like life, it’s surprising,” he said. “I can understand his reasons and he has given plenty of time for the Government to continue and plenty of time ahead of the European and local elections.

“In fairness to him he always put the country first. He did an awful lot of good in politics. The country and economy is in a good place and did his best for Fine Gael and the country. It will be an interesting time over the next few weeks and months, the next few weeks especially.

“Fine Gael has always had robust and democratic leadership challenges and I look forward to what the next few weeks bring.”

Speaking in the Dáil, Kerry TD Brendan Griffin said people “don’t really see the huge personal sacrifice that goes into the job of leadership” and wished the Taoiseach well.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times