New Delhi: In what is being touted as a huge generational shift in politics of Ireland, Indian native Leo Varadkar is likely to be named the country’s next Prime Minister, bringing with his election a series of firsts in a historic mandate.
Son of a Mumbai doctor and an Irish nurse, Varadkar could be the first Irish PM with Asian roots. If elected, he would also become the first openly gay PM of Ireland. And at 38, the youngest as well.
The results are expected to be declared around 5 pm Irish time or 10pm IST.
Varadkar may seem an unlikely frontrunner in socially conservative Ireland, but in many ways, he is symbolic of a more tolerant and secular society, particularly in Dublin and other urban areas.
Varadkar is the son of a doctor from Mumbai. His father, Ashok, met an Irish nurse, Miriam, when he was working in England in the 1970s. The couple moved to Ireland and Varadkar was born in Dublin.
Speaking to CNN, Chief Executive of the Ireland-India Council, Prashant Shukla, said it was a proud moment for his father and mother. “Over 30,000-strong Irish-Indian community is interestingly looking forward to it.”
However, Varadkar himself has played down the significance of his background and personal life.
Despite Varadkar’s parents both being immigrants at one point, Varadkar has also taken a controversial stance on immigration in the past. He had suggested deportation of unemployed immigrants to combat rising unemployment figures.
His sexual preferences is hardly mentioned and the consensus has been that what he does in bed is his personal matter. Senator Nora Owen, the first Irish Leader to publicly come out as gay, said it would signal another stride forward for equality rights in Ireland
“We have come a long way and the fact that someone like Leo Varadkar, who is an openly gay man, living with his partner, can actually put himself forward for Taoiseach and nobody is batting an eyelid is wonderful and I think it’s a great day for Ireland that we can do that,” Owen, a former Justice Minister of Ireland, told CNN.
He campaigned on same-sex marriage and liberalising abortion laws, although like the majority of his party colleagues, he is an advocate of tight fiscal restraint.
Varadkar had entered Ireland’s political stage when he was just 22. He was elected to parliament at 27 and nine years later, he publicly came out as gay.
In 2015, the once-staunchly Catholic country was heading towards a referendum on legalising gay marriage. It was during that time that Varadkar came out publicly on Irish national radio. The country later passed the Marriage Equality Bill, allowing same-sex couples to marry.
(With inputs from CNN)