The next leader of Fine Gael prepares to step into the fray

Front pages of national newspapers dominated by Leo Varadkar’s unexpected decision to step down

Ministers Paschal Donohoe and Simon Harris are among the names being tipped to run for Fine Gael leader following Leo Varadkar's shock resignation announcement. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Good morning,

The front pages of all the national newspapers this morning are dominated by Leo Varadkar’s bombshell decision to unexpectedly step down as leader of Fine Gael.

His announcement on the steps of Government Buildings yesterday has set into motion not only a leadership race but also a race for the coveted office of taoiseach.

As Pat Leahy reports in our lead story this morning, the two other Coalition leaders, Micheál Martin and Eamon Ryan, want the new Fine Gael leader to commit that the Government will run its full term until next spring.


Also on our front page, we run the rule over the leadership candidates who will today either throw their hat in the ring or take a step back. Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney is, so far, the only one who has ruled himself out, but the morning is young.

At the time of writing, speculation on who will succeed Varadkar centred on Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe.

Simon Harris is regarded as many as being the early front-runner, having made no secret of his future ambitions down through the years. Expect to see a flurry of support emerge for him today - you can follow all the latest updates throughout the day with our liveblog.

How will it all work? The Fine Gael executive council met last night to agree the nomination procedure for candidates. Nominations for the next party leader will open this morning at 10am and close next Monday at 1pm.

Candidates must be nominated by at least 10 per cent or six members of the parliamentary party so that’s TDs, Senators and MEPs. If there is a contest, the leadership candidates will have to sign a binding code of conduct which will govern their behaviour for the duration of the election.

There will be three regional meetings next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Voting will then take place between Tuesday April 2nd and Thursday April 4th across some 20 polling stations. Up to 20,000 members could be eligible to vote. The result will then be officially announced at the count centre. The game is afoot.

The wider political consequences

Across The Irish Times in print and online today, we look at the wider political implications of the shock decision, as well as examining what has brought us to this point.

In his analysis piece, Pat Leahy writes that the change of leader probably lengthens on the odds on an election taking place this year: “the new taoiseach will want to spend a bit of time being taoiseach before they try to get re-elected.”

We also examine why Leo Varadkar has decided to take this decision now, noting that the forthcoming local and European elections factored clearly into the timing of the announcement.

Cormac McQuinn charts the highs and lows of his political career, from Brexit to Covid to some memorable gaffes here.

Marie O’Halloran takes a closer look at the leadership candidates, while Harry McGee profiles Varadkar himself. He writes that his resignation statement on the steps of Government Buildings on Wednesday was one of the very few times in his career in which he has shown public emotion.

Kitty Holland asked what the constituents of Dublin West thought and she found shock, sadness and sometimes indifference. Sarah Burns gets the reaction of Fine Gael TDs here.

We have also recorded a bonus podcast looking at the ramifications of a hectic political day which you can listen to here.

Last but never least, Miriam Lord writes about how the Taoiseach is not so much resigning as throwing in the towel.

Expect the for-now Taoiseach to be grilled further by journalists about his decision and motivations when he flies to Brussels today for a European Council summit.

Pat Leahy will be there for us, follow his coverage here and turn on notifications on your app to be kept up to date with all of the breaking political news as it happens.

Best Reads

Tory cheers cannot hide their fears as Rishi Sunak struggles to keep his party onside

‘Making it here to Ireland. It’s a miracle’: Family reunited in Dublin after fleeing Gaza Strip

Netherlands still struggling to appoint a prime minister to succeed Mark Rutte

Lee Carsley rules himself out of Ireland football job


The Dáil sits from 9am until 4.30pm at which point a two-week recess begins. Tánaiste Micheál Martin takes questions on his brief at 9am, followed by questions to Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan. Leaders’ Questions are up at noon. Around 1.45pm the Social Democrats will bring a motion on international protection applications.

The Seanad runs from 9.30am until 2pm. Big ticket items (ahem) include a debate on the forthcoming referendum on the proposed unified patent courts and a debate on the Research and Innovation Bill.

In the committee rooms, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien discusses planning reforms at 9am. At 9.30am the Public Accounts Committee will discuss staffing and recruitment with An Garda Síochána. At 10.30am, the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community will hear from the Free Legal Advice Centre and housing solicitors.

Sign up for Politics push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone

News Digests

News Digests

Stay on top of the latest news with our daily newsletters each morning, lunchtime and evening