Leo Varadkar, reelected Ireland prime minister, joins several world leaders of Indian descent abroad

The 43-year-old Varadkar had done an earlier stint as prime minister – or Taoiseach, as it is formally known in the Gaelic language – from 2017 to 2020.

Arul Louis Dec 18, 2022
Rishi Sunak, António Costa PM of Portugal and Leo Varadkar, the prime minister or Taoiseach of Ireland. (Photo: US Dublin Embassy)

Leo Varadkar joined the growing ranks of Indian-origin leaders across the world when he again became the Taoiseach of Ireland. In a country that is 94 per cent white and 73 per cent Catholic, Varadkar broke through two barriers being openly gay and of Indian origin.

In neighboring Britain, Ireland’s former colonial ruler,  Rishi Sunak became prime minister in October. António Luís Santos da Costa, of Goan origin, has been the prime minister of Portugal since 2015.  

The Fine Gael party leader assumed the prime ministership at the head of a coalition on Saturday under an agreement with partner Fianna Fail party to swap the leadership in the middle of its term.

The 43-year-old Varadkar had done an earlier stint as prime minister – or Taoiseach, as it is formally known in the Gaelic language – from 2017 to 2020.

Leo's father Ashok Varadkar, a doctor who immigrated from Mumbai, his mother Miriam who is Irish, and his partner Matthew Barrett watched his election from the parliament gallery, the Dublin newspaper Sunday World reported.

Before entering politics, Leo Varadkar followed his father’s footsteps in the medical profession, reportedly doing an internship at Mumbai’s KEM Hospital. 

According to the Irish Times, Leo Varadkar has a political heritage with his father’s two older brothers participating in India’s freedom movement, with one of them jailed for a year as a political prisoner, meshing with Ireland's own fight for independence from the common coloniser.

Varadkar succeeded Enda Kenny as prime minister in 2017 when he resigned midway through his second term heading a minority government.

In the 2020 general election, Fine Gael again failed to win a parliamentary majority and formed a coalition with Fianna Fail with the understanding that its leader Micheal Martin and Varadkar would split the term of prime ministership.

Among other Indian-origin leaders, in the African island nation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, both top constitutional offices are held by people of Indian descent: Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth elected in 2016 and President Prithvirajsing Roopun elected in 2019.

In Seychelles, another African nation on the Indian Ocean, Wavel Ramkalawan elected in 2020 is the president and under that country’s constitution is also the head of government.

On the continent of South America, President Chandrikapersad Santokhi, elected in 2020, is also the head of government of Suriname, a Caribbean nation.

Mohamed Irfaan Ali is the president of Guyana since 2020.

United State Vice President Kamala Harris ranks with prime ministers in protocol, though not in her constitutional role.


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Mon, 01/09/2023 - 18:35
Hi. I am Irish, and Leo Varadkar's election was big news. Until 1992, male homosexual relations were against the law in Ireland. Now apparently a majority of Irish people are open to same-sex marriage. I have to contrast attitudes to homosexuality in Ireland to those in Russia, where sexual relations between males were legalized at around the same time (interestingly, the "godless commies" were as homophobic, or even more so, than your typical God-bothering right-winger). Now in Russia, Vladimir Putin passed a law forbidding "homosexual propaganda." So in Ireland, we've come a long way.