The shape and look of leadership around the globe has changed dramatically over the past few years, with the latest example of this phenomenon expected to come by the middle of month. That will be when voters in Ireland will go to the polls to elect a new prime minister, Leo Varadkar.
What makes the selection of the 38-year-old Varadkar unique, outside of the fact that’s he’ll be Ireland’s youngest leader ever, is the fact that he’s openly gay. That’s a drastic shift for a country that’s predominantly Catholic and was essentially shamed into being one of the final European Union nations to eliminate crimes for homosexuality. However, just two years ago, those same voters legalized gay marriage, with this expected vote the latest byproduct of the changing mores.
Varadkar is currently serving as Ireland’s Social Protection Minister and will be replacing Enda Kenny, the current prime minister who’s been in office for 15 years. Having garnered the needed support of political colleagues, Varadkar won a vote of the Irish parliament’s lawmakers to become the leader of the Fine Gael governing party by a 60-40 vote over 44-year-old Simon Coveney, the country’s Housing Minister.
Yet another innovation regarding the reshaping of Ireland’s image is that Varadkar’s father was an immigrant from India. Yet domestic media isn’t focusing on such extraneous matters and instead is looking at what economic policies he’ll implement. Varadkar’s sexuality might cause some to assume that he fully embraces progressive causes, but the reality is that his political roots lean more toward the conservative side of the spectrum.
Varadkar, who was a physician before his shift into politics, first entered this contentious field in 2004 and then slowly moved up the ladder. However, he didn’t come out as gay until 2015, a nod to the changing times.