Coveney rules out succeeding Varadkar after Taoiseach stands down as Fine Gael leader - as it happened

Varadkar on his resignation: ‘In the absence of anyone trying to stab me in the back, I have decided to fall on my own sword’


Main points

  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has stood down as leader of Fine Gael, effective today, Wednesday. It is expected that nominations for the leadership of Fine Gael will open tonight. He will remain as head of Government until a new leader of the party is elected
  • In a personal and emotional address outside Government Buildings, Mr Varadkar said that serving in Government “has been the most fulfilling time of my life”
  • The Dáil will elect a new taoiseach next month but Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney has already ruled himself out of succeeding Mr Varadkar
  • Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan were surprised to learn of Mr Varadkar’s decision, Mr Ryan has said
  • Opposition politicians including Mary Lou McDonald, Richard Boyd-Barrett and Holly Cairns have called for a general election in light of Mr Varadkar’s announcement

Key pieces

Breaking news: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to step down - listen to his full speech

Listen | 07:51
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has announced he is to step down. Listen to his full speech in this bonus episode. More to follow.


That’s it for our live coverage of a dramatic day in Irish politics. Pat Leahy has the latest as the search for a new Fine Gael leader gets under way. Pick up a paper to read even more coverage of the fallout of Varadkar’s decision or follow it with us on first thing in the morning.

Sin é.


‘Britain’s Brexit nemesis is gone’

Today’s bombshell news has made headlines all over the world and is still the leading story on many major news outlets.

Among them, BBC News cuts straight to the point, as its lead headline reads: Leo Varadkar: I am no longer best man to be Irish PM

The Guardian’s headline pulls no punches either: Leo Varadkar steps down as Irish prime minister in shock move

The Daily Telegraph is running an analysis from its Europe editor James Crisp headlined: Leo Varadkar: Britain’s Brexit nemesis is gone, but the problems he ushered in are not

Crisp argues the departure of the Taoiseach “who kept Northern Ireland under EU law will not herald rapid improvement in relations between Dublin and London”.

The news makes the third item on The New York Times website, which simply calls the resignation a “surprise announcement”.

Over at The Washington Post, Varadkar is described as “one of the most outspoken supporters of the Palestinians among European leaders” as it reports the news.

Meanwhile, CNN pointed to Varadkar’s “headline-making” trip to the United States over the St Patrick’s Day festival, “which saw him challenge president Joe Biden over the US response to the war in Gaza”.


Harry McGee also brings news from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, at which Tánaiste Micheál Martin told colleagues he believed the Government should go the full distance, notwithstanding the change of leadership in Fine Gael.

Mr Martin said the Government still needed to implement policies on housing, health, childcare and support for households.

“There are still 123 months of this Dáil’s mandate to go. It is essential we deliver another budget and finalise the Planning Bill,” he said.

He said he remembers the instability created by the break-up of governments in 1989 and 1992 and said that a stable Government that ran its full terms had the best chance of delivering the best policy outcomes for the nation.

The decisions of Mr Varadkar to resign had taken him by surprise when he was told about it by the Taoiseach late on Tuesday night.

He said he would consult party colleagues and also said that the Programme for Government did make provision for this type of situation arising.


More in from Harry McGee, who reports that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told Fine Gael colleagues he had decided to fall on his sword after discovering that nobody wanted to stab him in the back.

Speaking at the parliamentary party meeting, Mr Varadkar said there was never a perfect or an easy time to step down as Taoiseach and as party leader.

He quipped to the packed meeting which was attended by most of the party’s TDs and Senators: “In the absence of anyone trying to stab me in the back, I have decided to fall on my own sword.”

He also disclosed to colleagues that perhaps he had risen too quickly through the party ranks, suggesting his leadership of Fine Gael and of the country had come too early.

The Taoiseach expressed the view that following the change of leadership Fine Gael can have strong European and local elections and regain more Dáil seats at the next General Election and return to Government.

He said the next leader of the party would have his “unequivocal support”.

Numerous TDs and Senators spoke at the meeting to praise Mr Varadkar for his achievements during his seven years as leader of the party, with many referring to his work on Brexit, and his leadership during the first stages of the Covid pandemic.

The Limerick TD and Junior Minister Patrick O’Donovan said that many years ago he attended a meeting of the youth wing of the European People’s Party in Athens.

“All the other youth delegates were looking for an Irish bar. Leo was in his hotel room writing a paper on EU expansion into the West Balkans,” he said.


“Well,” says Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, “I didn’t see that coming when we came into work today.”

She adds that the decision has taken everybody by surprise, and then argues that the move has “called time” on the Government.


Coveney has framed Varadkar’s decision as a personal one, making the point that he has been honest enough to say that he no longer has the energy to do the job.

He also said there was no pressure on him from within the ranks of the party. He added that Varadkar was doing what he thinks is best for the country.


Coveney said he believes there will be more than one candidate going for the leadership, but declined to back a runner.


Simon Coveney, one of the front-runners to succeed Varadkar, has ruled himself out of the job.

He said he was informed of the news by way of a phone call last night from the Taoiseach.


Our political reporter Harry McGee reports some more interesting comments from Varadkar earlier today.

The Taoiseach said he had an opportunity to have some time to himself at the weekend during his visit to Washington where he had thought about the decision.

“I’m not resigning my seat or anything like that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to take up a role on the backbenches. I will be knocking on doors and leaving leaflets.

“We are in a good position in Dublin West. One senator, four councillors and one and a half quotas. I will be sitting down with my political team there and plotting a way forward. But it’s a decision that won’t be made today.”

He said the EU Commissioner job, when it comes up, is “not for me”, pouring cold water on that speculation.

“More than seven years of long days, late evenings, most weekends, a lot of travel,” he said. “I need to stop that for a while.”

He said he had no CVs printed and he has not been looking around for a new role.


No major bombshells from Micheál Martin, all in all.


The Tánaiste has insisted the Government will go the full term. He said it is important to make substantive decisions for the long-term good of the country and that this is where his focus lies.


Tánaiste Micheál Martin is speaking to the Six One bulletin on RTÉ.

He has paid tribute to Varadkar and poured cold water on calls for an election.

He said he is “disappointed” with the reaction of the Opposition, and suggested they “tend to me more politics than policy” and “don’t do substance”.


A fresh Inside Politics podcast has just dropped.

Pat Leahy, Jennifer Bray and Jack Horgan-Jones join Hugh Linehan to discuss today’s announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that he is stepping down and the questions surrounding the timing and impact of his decision, the potential reasons behind his departure and its implications for Fine Gael.

They also assess potential candidates for Varadkar’s successor and the challenges facing the party in the upcoming election.

Find it here.


Mr Varadkar is taking questions from the press at Government Buildings. Harry McGee reports.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Varadkar said that 13 years is a long time at the Cabinet table, and seven years as Taoiseach and Tánaiste. “I am very grateful for all the opportunities I had to serve.”

He said he has been weighing the decision since Christmas but has only made up his mind definitively at the weekend.

Mr Varadkar said that he knew the announcement came as a surprise to his colleagues, but added that he would remain as a TD and would be canvassing for the party for all the forthcoming elections. He said he had not made up his mind as to if he would stand in the next election.


Various political figures have paid tribute to Mr Varadkar since this afternoon’s shock announcement.

US Ambassador to Ireland Claire Cronin said that she enjoyed an “excellent working relationship” with Mr Varadkar since taking up her role in Ballsbridge.

“During the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States, the Taoiseach tirelessly promoted the interests that bind our countries together with US Government, business, and non-profit organisations. The Taoiseach played a strong role in advancing US-Irish relations during his time in Government and was pivotal in ensuring the success of President Biden’s four-day visit to Ireland a year ago.

“The Taoiseach worked closely with the United States on many issues, including improving our trade and investment relationship, defending democratic values in international fora, and fighting back against Putin’s war in Ukraine while welcoming Ukrainians to Irish shores,” she said.

President of the Irish Farmer’s Association (IFA) Francie Gorman said he found Mr Varadkar to be “open and accessible to discussions about what was needed to support farmers as part of the development of our largest indigenous sector”.

“Leo Varadkar attended our AGM in January in the Irish Farm Centre and was willing to engage with our delegates. We had a lengthy meeting with him in recent weeks and we felt we were genuinely making progress on some issues,” he said.

He said that Mr Varadkar kept farmers’ concerns around Brexit “front and centre” during trade agreement talks in 2020.

Danny McCoy, chief executive of Ibec, said that Mr Varadkar “consistently demonstrated a willingness to work with Ibec and understand the needs of business, recognising its critical role in the prosperity of the country and its potential to transform our country as a whole”.

Analysis of political ‘bombshell’

Leo Varadkar’s bombshell announcement that he will step down as leader of Fine Gael with immediate effect has turned the political world momentarily upside down.

The move shocked Government and Opposition politicians alike; none more so than his potential successors in Fine Gael, who are all, for now, maintaining a judicious silence about their future intentions. They will have to make up their minds soon enough, though; politics is a forward looking business, and it moves on quickly to the next thing. And the next thing is: who will lead Fine Gael?

Read Political Editor Pat Leahy’s full analysis here.


One of the front runners to succeed Mr Varadkar, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris, was bullish about his future in politics when he spoke to London Correspondent Mark Paul last week.

When it was put to Mr Harris that the Government seemed jaded, he insisted that, personally, he felt the opposite, as he played up his enthusiasm and also his experience.

“I’ve never been more energised. I’m not in any way, shape or form anything else other than energised. I’m constantly working on new ideas,” he said. “I’m as full of energy and as enthusiastic as I was on day one. But now also with the benefit of experience. And experience also matters. This must be the only job in the world where experience is presented as a negative. Experience is a good thing.”

He defended Fine Gael’s record in Government, but he also suggested that the party should be in listening mode and on the lookout for “new ideas” ahead of the next general election.

“Our party needs to be humble that it hasn’t gotten everything right. I think we have to constantly be in the mode of yearning to do more, to do better, to come up with new ideas, and to listen. The most important thing you can do in Irish politics right now is to listen to what people have to say.”

Tributes from London

Hilary Benn, Labour’s shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, has paid tribute to the outgoing Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, reports Mark Paul from London.

“Leo Varadkar has led his country through some momentous changes,” said Mr Benn, who is seen as one of the most experienced members of Labour leader Keir Starmer’s would-be Cabinet.

“Throughout, he has been totally committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it has brought,” said Mr Benn of Mr Varadkar.

“On behalf of the Labour Party, I wish him well for the future and look forward to working with his successor as we continue to strengthen the ties of friendship between our two countries.”

Fine Gael leadership nominations

It is now expected that nominations for the leadership of Fine Gael will open tonight, and close as early as Saturday, writes Jennifer Bray.

The future potential candidates are today consulting with family and friends about next steps, but so far, no one has broken cover.

Michelle O’Neill: ‘We now need to see is an election’

Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill said there will be “plenty of time for people to pass their view on the Taoiseach’s tenure”, but said she is “clear” she believes that a general election should be called in the Republic.

“It’s not a time for a rearranging of the deckchairs,” the Sinn Féin vice-president told reporters in Belfast.

“And, ultimately, it’s for the people to decide who will be the Taoiseach.

“So I think it’s now over to the people, there should be an election, people should have a chance to pass their verdict, particularly after 13 years of Fine Gael in power, 13 years of failure on their part, 13 years of failure to build houses, 13 years of failure to support people through the cost-of-living crisis.

“So, ultimately, what we now need to see is an election.”

Unionism “did not always see eye-to-eye with Leo Varadkar”, but wish him well, Stormont Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly has said.

Ms Little-Pengelly referred to Mr Varadkar’s often tense relationship with unionism, particularly over the UK’s departure from the European Union.

“I think it’s fair to say that Leo Varadkar and unionism didn’t see eye to eye very often at all,” she said.

“But, of course, you know, I do wish him all the very best as he has stepped down today.

In a statement, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he and Mr Varadkar “were very often on different ends of the political spectrum”.

“We differed on the Republic of Ireland’s approach to legacy, and sharply differed on his approach and attitude on the Protocol and the constitutional future of Northern Ireland. Where we differed we did so respectfully,” he said.

“I wish Mr Varadkar well as he steps down from leadership.”

UUP leader Doug Beattie said Mr Varadkar’s announcement “has come as a surprise to us all”.

“On behalf of the Ulster Unionist Party, I would like to wish Mr Varadkar every success in the future,” he said.

“We look forward to working with his successor in a constructive manner, fostering good relationships.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Mr Varadkar “served with honour and integrity throughout his time as Taoiseach”.

He said the Taoiseach played an important role in support for Northern Ireland, and “committed measurable resource to critical projects in the North that will bring communities closer together”.

“In all of my dealings with the Taoiseach, I have found him to be direct, supportive and willing to do whatever he can to support the political process in the North. I sincerely wish him and Matt the very best for the future,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alliance leader Naomi Long paid tribute to Mr Varadkar as having “had a major role to play in positive north-south relations”. – PA

Varadkar rejects Opposition calls for general election as he steps down as Taoiseach

Marie O’Halloran reports from the Dáil.

The Taoiseach has concluded the Order of Business, rejecting calls for a general election and saying Government business scheduled for this week will continue as it should and he would attend the European Council meeting in Brussels tomorrow and they would discuss Gaza.

The Dáil would also discuss the European Council meeting and TDs could raise the issue of Gaza if they wanted to as well.

He again stressed to more calls for a general election that the Constitution was clear about the political system’s operation.

“The President is directly elected by the people and the taoiseach is elected by the Dáil and the Dáil is elected by the people.”

Aontú TD Peadar Tóibín had said “this is no way to run a country. The position of Taoiseach is being thrown around like snuff at a wake”.

He added: “We can’t have a taoiseach who has been rejected by the people being replaced by an unelected taoiseach.”

Solidarity TD Mick Barry said there needs to be a general election now.

Mr Varadkar he said, has been a good Taoiseach for the wealthy and the upper echelons” but not for working people and not for the poor.

Leo Varadkar in quotes

When Leo Varadkar was an up and coming politician, many thought he was too outspoken to aspire to the highest office, but he served twice as Taoiseach. Whether through his scripted speeches or his spontaneous remarks in person or online, he has been eminently quotable throughout his career, writes Ronan McGreevy.

“You’re no Séan Lemass, you’re no Jack Lynch and you’re no John Bruton. You have tripled the national debt and effectively destroyed the country. You’re a Garret FitzGerald ... enjoy writing your boring articles in The Irish Times.” – Leo Varadkar to Brian Cowen in the Dáil (2010)

“I am a gay man. It’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know” – when coming out publicly as a gay man on RTÉ radio 1′s Miriam O’Callaghan programme (2015)

“The people who get up early in the morning” – the type of people Leo Varadkar had in mind when asked who he wished to represent as Taoiseach (2017)

“They get money from their parents. Lots of us did” – His comments in the Dáil about getting a deposit for a house has been paraphrased as the “bank of Mum and Dad” (2018)

“Dear Kylie. Just wanted to drop you a short note in advance of the concert in Dublin. I am really looking forward to it. Am a huge fan! I understand you are staying in the Merrion Hotel which is just across the street from my office in Government Buildings. If you like, I’d love to welcome you to Ireland personally” (2019)

Not all superheroes wear capes ... some wear scrubs and gowns” – his most famous speech at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic when he announced a national lockdown in March 2020.

“Some have asked whether there is a limit to what we can achieve. My answer is that the limit does not exist” – Leo Varadkar quoting Mean Girls during the Covid-19 pandemic (2020)

“So, this afternoon let me end with words of hope, ‘In the end, it’s only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines, it’ll shine out the clearer.’” – Leo Varadkar this time quoting Samwise Gamgee from the Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2020)

“Watching Sinn Féin, it is like politics for slow learners sometimes. I think it was Seamus Mallon who famously described the Good Friday Agreement as Sunningdale for slow learners because Sinn Féin finally accepted democracy and peace and power sharing and consent.” – His comments about “slow learners” incurred the wrath of some disability campaigners but Mr Varadkar stood by them (2023)

“This is a day of enormous joy and relief for Emily Hand and her family. An innocent child who was lost has now been found and returned, and we breathe a massive sigh of relief. Our prayers have been answered.” – His tweet in November last year earned the scorn of the Israeli foreign minister Eli Cohen who said she was not lost and found, but brutally abducted. (2023)

“My experience of life, and I’m sure it’s most people’s experience of life, my parents brought me up. They cared for me. When they’re old, I’m going to make sure they’re looked after. God forbid if something happened to either of my sisters, I’ll make sure that my nephews and nieces are looked after, that they’ve a home, they’ve an education. I don’t actually think that’s the State’s responsibility, to be honest. I do think that is very much a family responsibility, but families deserve the support of the State, and that’s really what this article will say, this new part of the Constitution.” – His comments on Virgin Media’s Six O’Clock Show incurred the wrath of many carers and may have contributed to the emphatic rejection of the referendum on care. (2024)


Here’s a video of Micheál Martin reacting to Mr Varadkar’s resignation.

‘Deck chairs on the Titanic’

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett tells the Dáil that “we don’t need a shifting of the deck chairs on the Titanic” and also calls for a general election.

“That is the democratic thing to do,” he tells the Taoiseach.

The Dún Laoghaire TD says “we have the worst homeless crisis in the history of the State”, also pointing to problems in the health system.

“You have had your chance,” he adds. “Now let the people decide and give them a general election.”


In response to Ms Cairns, Mr Varadkar defends the Government’s record and says the country has faced a lot of challenges since 2011.

He says “we’re never going to wake up in a country that doesn’t have problems”.

“There will always be a crisis, and if not one, there will be two or three,” he says.

Mr Varadkar adds that his biggest regret is that it’s not possible to solve all of the country’s problems at once but that they will keep working on them.

Mr Varadkar says there is “potential” in the Social Democrats leader but that she is “very much a politician of the social media age”.


Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns said a new Fine Gael leader won’t address the fact “the writing is on the wall for this Government”, speaking in the Dáil.

Ms Cairns says over 14 years Fine Gael have failed to address the major issues facing the country – housing, health, disability services and climate action.

She says the next taoiseach should be elected by the electorate, not Fine Gael.


Shortly before today’s press conference which announced the Taoiseach’s decision as to his future, President Higgins was informed and arrangements were set in place between the Offices of both for the two to have a phone call as soon as possible, reports Jennifer Bray.

This took place immediately after the Taoiseach’s press conference, when they had a substantive conversation. Over the course of this, the President thanked the Taoiseach for his service and for the comprehensive Article 28 meetings, which they have had over the course of the Taoiseach’s two terms in office. They are due to have a further Article 28 meeting before the Taoiseach leaves office, when they will have an opportunity to discuss a number of issues.

Their most recent Article 28 meeting was immediately before the Taoiseach’s departure to the United States for St Patrick’s Day.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said in response the office of taoiseach is elected by Dáil Éireann and it is not unprecedented for the Dáil to elect a new taoiseach during its current term.

He says there is nothing unusual about this and that’s how he succeeded Enda Kenny as taoiseach.

Varadkar adds that an election will happen in “due course” but the Government will continue for now, ruling out an early election.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald again calls for Mr Varadkar to go to the people. She says rather than limping on and passing the office of taoiseach “among yourselves again”, the correct democratic route is to go to the people.


Sarah Burns is reporting the Dáil where Mary Lou McDonald is kicking off Leader’s Questions.

She said that the Taoiseach’s announcement “brings us to a critical moment in Irish politics”.

Ms McDonald said the decision of who leads as taoiseach must be placed in the hands of the people. She said today’s announcement can only have one conclusion – the calling of a general election.

The Sinn Féin leader said it’s clear that it’s time for the entire Government to go and to allow people to have their say.

“We need a new Government,” she says.


Cormac McQuinn reports from Eamon Ryan’s press conference at Government Buildings.

Speaking to reporters Mr Ryan said: “our Constitution sets out that a Government has a certain period that would run us through to the end of the March next year.

“I think we have a mandate from the people and we intend to exercise that.”

He also said: “We have work to do”.

He said there was a “full agenda” at Cabinet on Wednesday and there will be a full agenda next week.

“We have critical issues that we have to address immediately.”

He said the current Government has already shown that a change of taoiseach “doesn’t stop you doing the work you need to do”.

“We’re probably a rare Government in a European context moment”, he said, adding that there are “very few stable coalition’s in existence.”

He said: “I think we continue to provide that stable Government.”

Mr Ryan said he was surprised to learn of Mr Varadkar’s plans as was Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

“But then when someone has explained something you can understand it and I very much understand it”.

Mr Ryan said he wished Mr Varadkar “the very best of luck” and that “we look forward to continuing to work in this Government to the very best of our abilities.”


Sinn Féin TD Matt Carthy is also calling for a general election, as is Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns.

“We need a change of Government, not just a change of Taoiseach,” Mr Carthy told RTÉ's News at One.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that is “utterly untenable” that the current Government continue.

She said that it is the people that should choose the next Taoiseach, not Fine Gael.


Following this afternoon’s news, People Before Profit-Solidarity is calling for a general election.

TD Paul Murphy said that the people should now decide who leads the country, not the Fine Gael party.

“It is absolutely clear that we need a general election following the resignation of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach.

“This Government is presiding over a shocking housing crisis and a crisis in health and cost of living. The people need to be given the opportunity to decide on who will lead the country, not the Fine Gael party.”


Green Party leader Eamon Ryan has released a statement reacting to the news.

“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Leo Varadkar for his work as Taoiseach. He has been an energetic and committed leader of the country who was always supportive of his Government colleagues.

“It’s worth noting that the agreement at the start of this Government was between the three Coalition parties, not the three leaders. That agreement stands, particularly in light of the important work that this Government has to do.

“The Green Party looks forward to the conclusion of the Fine Gael leadership contest and the election of a new taoiseach by Dáil Éireann. In the interim, the important work of Government continues and the three Coalition parties will continue to fulfil our mandate, just as we have done over the last three and a half years.

“I would like to offer my good wishes to Leo as he prepares to depart the Taoiseach’s office. He has served the country well and can be proud of the contribution he has made to Irish political life.”


Here is the full transcript of Mr Varadkar’s announcement, courtesy of Vivienne Clarke.

“Thank you for coming. I’d like to read a brief statement. I’ve had the privilege to serve for the past 20 years as a public representative, 13 as a member of Cabinet, seven as leader of my party, and most of those as Taoiseach of this great country. It has been the most fulfilling time of my life.

Working with colleagues, I’ve had the honour of helping to lead Ireland from unemployment to full employment, from budget deficit to budget surplus, from austerity to prosperity, through a pandemic in which we saved lives and livelihoods through Brexit when we prevented a hard border between north and south and protected our place in Europe.

I’m proud we’ve made the country a more equal and more modern place when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community, equality for women and their bodily autonomy. More recently, we’ve led the country through an inflation cost-of-living crisis, the worst of which is now thankfully behind us.

We’ve made significant steps towards affordable child care and universal healthcare, making access to both more affordable for more people. We’ve made work pay better with the implementation of a national living wage, statutory sick pay, lower personal taxes, improved family leave, allowing parents to spend more time with their children in those crucial early years.

I’m happy that during my time as Taoiseach, we were able to honour my commitments to double spending on the arts, culture and sport. This is making a real difference now and will continue to do so into the future, fostering and assisting the artists and the sportsmen and women of the future.

We provided leadership by increasing our spending on international development, how we’ve expanded our diplomatic footprint around the world, building on Ireland’s already considerable soft power.

The national broadband plan is under way, bringing fibre-based internet connections to every home, school, business, farm and community in Ireland which the critics said shouldn’t be done. We’ve established the technological universities and the Rural Development Fund, and since 2011, we’ve quadrupled overall annual investment in public infrastructure.

That’s meant considerably more investment in priorities like housing, healthcare facilities, school buildings and climate action. And I am deeply proud that we, as Irish people, welcomed over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to our shores when they needed our protection, notwithstanding the challenges this brings.

In my time as Taoiseach we reduced consistent poverty and income inequality. Housing construction is more than doubled, with 500 people becoming homeowners each week for the first time, the highest number in almost two decades.

Of course, there are areas in which we have been much less successful, and some in which we have sadly gone backwards. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I leave it to others to point them out on a day like this. They will receive plenty of airtime and column space.

When I became party leader and taoiseach back in June 2017. I knew that one part of leadership is knowing when the time has come to pass on the baton to somebody else, and then having the courage to do it. That time is now. So I am resigning as president and leader, Fine Gael, effective today. I will resign as Taoiseach as soon as my successor is able to take up that office.

I’ve asked our party general secretary and executive council to provide for the new leader to be elected in advance of the ardfheis on Saturday, April 16th, thus allowing a new taoiseach to be elected when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break.

I know this will come as a surprise to many people and a disappointment to some, and I hope at least you’ll understand my decision. I know that others will, how shall I put it, cope with the news just fine. That is the great thing about living in a democracy.

There’s never a right time to resign my office. However, this is as good a time as any. Budget 2024 is done. Negotiations have not yet commenced on the next one. The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement are working again, and our trading relationship with the UK in the post-Brexit era is settled and stable.

The new taoiseach will have a full two months to prepare for the local and European elections, and up to a year before the next general election.

My reasons for stepping down are both personal and political. I believe this Government can be re-elected, and I believe my party Fine Gael can gain seats in the next Dáil. Most of all, I believe the re-election of this three-party Government would be the right thing for the future of our country, continuing to take us forward, protecting all that’s been achieved and building on it.

But 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. To renew and strengthen the team. To focus our message on policies, to drive implementation. And after seven years in office, I don’t feel I’m the best person for that job any more.

There are loyal colleagues and good friends contesting local European elections, and I want to give them the best chance possible. And I think they have a better chance under a new leader. I am standing aside in the absolute confidence that the country and the economy are in a good place, and that my colleagues in Government from all three parties – Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, the Greens – and the Oireachtas will continue to work hard for the nation’s best interests.

On a personal level, I’ve enjoyed being Taoiseach, leader and a Cabinet member since March 2011. I’ve learned so much about so many things, met so many people who I’d never have got to meet, been to places I would never have seen, both home and abroad, and I am deeply grateful for it – and despite the challenges would wholeheartedly recommend a career in politics to anyone who’s considering it.

However, politicians are human beings and we have our limitations. We give it everything until we can’t any more and then we have to move on. I will, of course, continue to fulfil my duties as Taoiseach until a new one is elected and will remain as consistency TD for Dublin West.

I know inevitably there will be speculation as to the ‘quote unquote’ real reason for my decision. These are the real reasons. That’s it. I have nothing else lined up. I have nothing in mind. I have no definite personal or political plans, but I’m really looking forward to having the time to think about them.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my party, my colleagues and partners, particularly Micheál and Eamon, my constituents, colleagues and staff for their loyalty and their phenomenal work. And I’m going to thank them all in person in the near future. Most of all, I want to finish by thanking the people of Ireland for giving me the opportunity to serve them. And I promise I’ll keep working for Ireland and my community in any way I can in the future. Thank you very much.”


Simon Carswell and Jack Horgan Jones profiled Mr Varadkar before he took over as Taoiseach at the end of 2022, replacing Micheál Martin.

You can read the full profile here.


Questioned about the security of the current Government, Eamon Ryan notes that taoisigh have stepped down in a similar manner to Mr Varadkar in the past, like Enda Kenny and Bertie Ahern.


Some opposition reaction has begun to crop up on X.

Time for a general election says Matt Carthy.


A spokesman for UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has wished Mr Varadkar well, writes London Correspondent Mark Paul. He said Ireland is “a vital partner” for the UK and that the prime minister “worked well” with the Taoiseach and hopes to continue to work closely with his successor


Mr Martin said he has been consistent that the Coalition should go full term, writes Jennifer Bray. Asked if the Government has credibility, Mr Martin said Varadkar was entitled to make the decision he made. He said “it is new, unprecedented in many ways, but it has happened before with Taoisigh have been elected mid stream in Dáil Éireann.”


He says he and Eamon Ryan were briefed on Mr Varadkar’s decision yesterday evening. “To be honest, I was surprised when I heard what he was going to do.”

Mr Martin paid tribute to Mr Varadkar again and spoke of the strength of their relationship in Government.


Michéal Martin is fielding questions from the press following Mr Varadkar’s announcement.


After listing the achievements of past governments – and briefly acknowledging that there were shortcomings along the way – Mr Varadkar shared some of his reasoning for resigning.

He said there is never a “right time” to step down but that now was as good a time as any.

Mr Varadkar said that after “some soul searching” he felt a new leader would be better placed to get the Government re-elected.

“And after seven years in office, I don’t feel like the best person for that job.”


Mr Varadkar’s voice is strained with emotion as he reaches the end of his speech. He says he believes Fine Gael can lead the next Government – just not with him at the helm.

He says he has no future plans at present.


Mr Varadkar says he is resigning as leader as Fine Gael effective today: “My reasons for stepping down are both personal and political.”


Mr Varadkar has listed achievements of governments he has led: leading the country to full employment, he says, out of austerity; guiding the country through the pandemic; and avoiding a hard border during the Brexit process.


Mr Varadkar says that leading the country and his time in Government has been “the most fulfilling time of my life”.


Mr Varadkar is now speaking outside Government Buildings.


After the initial shock of the announcement, the focus is likely to quickly move to potential successors, writes Political Editor Pat Leahy. Possible candidates include Coveney, Paschal Donohoe, Simon Harris and Helen McEntee. Fine Gael Ministers are understood to be currently meeting privately – without Mr Varadkar.


Our Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray has some snap analysis on Mr Varadkar’s announcement:

Leo Varadkar’s announcement that he is to step down as leader of Fine Gael was, on the face of it, dramatic and unexpected, landing in a short political week in between two Dáil recesses.

There has been growing unease at all levels of the party, however, about Fine Gael’s performance in the polls but more alarmingly the 11 party TDs who have announced they will not run again next time around.

The party has been accused of being out of touch with the electorate following the recent resounding electoral defeats, and it has been struggling to get to grips with issues such as the continuing immigration policy. Varadkar’s decision avoids an unseemly heave which, when it has happened in the past, has proven damaging to the party.


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to announce he will stand down as Fine Gael leader.

He will stay as Taoiseach until a new leader is chosen by the party, which it is hoped will be completed by the party’s ardfheis in early April.

The Dáil will then, it is planned, elect the new Fine Gael leader as taoiseach.

However, the departure of Mr Varadkar will be hugely destabilising event for the Coalition and is likely to lead to calls for an early general election.

Mr Varadkar will make an announcement in a press conference at 12pm outside Government Buildings,

Mr Varadkar is understood to have informed senior Fine Gael colleagues on Tuesday and the leaders of the Coalition parties, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, on Tuesday evening.

The Government will remain in place, and will remain constitutionally unaffected until Mr Varadkar resigns as Taoiseach. At that point all Ministers are deemed to have resigned, and a new taoiseach and Government must be elected by the Dáil.

The news has sent shock waves through the political system. Rumours that a senior figure – with some mentioning Simon Coveney – was to resign had swept through Leinster House from early on Wednesday morning. Few mentioned the possibility that Mr Varadkar might quit.

Since last year, 10 Fine Gael TDs have said that they will not contest the next general election, with the latest, Ciaran Cannon, announcing his decision on Tuesday.

John Paul Phelan, Michael Creed, Richard Bruton, Brendan Griffin, Joe McHugh, Fergus O’Dowd, David Stanton, Charlie Flanagan and Paul Kehoe have all made similar announcements.

In 2021, Mr Varadkar’s former closest ally and the man who ran his leadership campaign in 2017, Eoghan Murphy, resigned from the Dáil.

It is an enormous exodus and in an electoral system where incumbency is a significant advantage, a huge political blow to Fine Gael.