Ireland’s gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is saying goodbye to his role as leader – but there’s a catch

Irish leader Leo Varadkar

Ireland’s gay Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is saying goodbye to his role as leader of the country – but his departure is only temporary.

Four months after Ireland went to the polls, centre-right parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have finally reached an agreement to form a coalition with the Green Party.

Under the plans, Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin will now become Taoiseach – but this will not be the case for the full lifespan of the government.

The three parties have agreed to an unprecedented “rotating Taoiseach” arrangement which will see Varadkar take on the role of leader again in December 2022.

Leo Varadkar will take over as Taoiseach again in December 2022.

Getting to this stage was a long and arduous process.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s two biggest political parties, have dominated the country’s political landscape for almost a century, but that domination began to crumble in February’s general election.

Left wing party Sinn Féin experienced a dramatic resurgence, with smaller left-wing parties also making gains.

Sinn Féin ultimately won more seats than Fine Gael – however, the two centre-right parties opted to band together in an effort to keep them out of government, instead entering talks with the Green Party.

Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party have now published a draft programme for government which runs to almost 50,000 words in length.

The five-year plan includes commitments on housing, health, education and jobs – and also includes a short section on commitments to LGBT+ equality.

In the draft plan, the new government promises to ban conversion therapy, improve access to healthcare for trans people, make self-identification easier for 16 and 17 year-old trans people, tighten anti-discrimination legislation, and eradicate the criminal records of gay men convicted under since-scrapped anti-homosexuality laws.

The draft programme for government also promises to introduce “an inclusive programme on LGBT+ relationships” in primary and secondary schools – a crucial step for LGBT+ youth.

The gay leader has served in a caretaker capacity since February.

Varadkar has held the top office in Ireland since 2017 when he took over from former Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. He is one of just three openly gay world leaders.

He offered his resignation as Taoiseach in February, but has continued to serve in a caretaker capacity while government formation talks continued.

In February, shortly after the general election, elected representatives in Dáil Eireann cast their votes to nominate the next Taoiseach.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald won the most votes, but fell short of the required number to be named as Ireland’s next leader.

Martin trailed behind in second place in that vote, with Varadkar finishing in third place.