Leo Varadkar is on his way to becoming the first Trinity graduate to become Taoiseach, after winning the election to replace Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael.
While this victory doesn’t make him automatically taoiseach – he will need to secure the continued support of the Independent Alliance in government and the parliamentary co-operation of Fianna Fáil first – the election today brings Varadkar, at only 38 years old, one step closer to leading Ireland.
Varadkar, who is the 11th leader of Fine Gael, graduated from medicine in 2003 and was a general practitioner before going into politics. Varadkar, who is Minister for Social Protection and a former Minister for Health, faced criticism during the campaign for his department’s campaign against welfare cheats, despite being heralded globally for his youth and his status as an openly gay politician in a country often seen as socially conservative.
Varadkar was a member of Young Fine Gael during his time in Trinity, eventually becoming chair of the society. During his campaign, he received significant support from numerous members of Trinity Young Fine Gael, who campaigned for him during the leadership election. He has made numerous appearances to Trinity, from enjoying Trinity Ball to launching Med Day and speaking to Young Fine Gael.
If Varadkar does receive the necessary support to form a stable government, which has the potential to become a protracted process as he will need to ensure the current government maintains its confidence and supply agreement with Fianna Fáil, he will become both the youngest and first gay taoiseach.
Trinity has never had a graduate elected taoiseach before and Varadkar’s appointment as Fine Gael leader would be a boost to the College, which, despite often being seen as one of Ireland’s elite universities, has seen its graduates have less impact on the higher levels of politics than University College Dublin (UCD) and University College Cork (UCC).
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The final votes saw a significant divide between the parliamentary party and Fine Gael’s members. Coveney received the support of over 7,000 members, while Varadkar gained only 3,772 votes, despite the latter dominating the votes of Fine Gael senators and TDs.
Attention will now turn to Varadkar’s meetings with members of the Independent Alliance and the changes he might make within the current government and cabinet.