Friday 15 December 2017

New Taoiseach Leo promises 'a Republic of opportunities'

New Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar waves to TD's and well wishers at Leinster House after being elected as Taoiseach
New Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar waves to TD's and well wishers at Leinster House after being elected as Taoiseach

Dublin West TD Leo Varadkar vowed to convince people that "change is possible" as he became the country's youngest Taoiseach, 10 years on from the day he first took his seat in the Dail.

The Fine Gael leader is Ireland's 14th Taoiseach after being elected yesterday by 57 votes to 50, with 47 abstentions.

"As our youngest Taoiseach, he represents a modern, div-erse and inclusive Ireland and speaks for them like no other," said departing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who nominated Mr Varadkar (38) to succeed him.

A triumphant Mr Varadkar described the day as a "demonstration of democracy in action".

"Something we sometimes take for granted," he added.

"For some, politics is a bad word, but we've seen in some countries and this one that it can be a way to convince people that change is possible.

"I hope through our acts and the progress we achieve we can earn the trust of the people."

"If we want to inspire somebody to believe in your vision, you have to appeal to their heart as well as their head.

"The Government I lead will not be of the left or the right. It will be of the new European centre. A Republic of opportunities."

The Dail was then suspended until 6.30pm as Taoiseach Leo Varadkar travelled to Aras an Uachtarain to receive his seal of office from President Michael D Higgins.

Mr Varadkar was joined on his special day by his delighted family and partner Matthew Barrett. He then alerted his new ministers about their positions in the Cabinet.

Mr Kenny said he had known Mr Varadkar since his election to Fingal County Council in 2004, and especially since he was first elected a TD in 2007.

He said Mr Varadkar had the drive and commitment needed to succeed in politics.


Mr Varadkar was seconded by one of the Dail's newest TDs, Josepha Madigan, of Dublin Rathdown, who was elected in February last year.

Ms Madigan said Mr Varadkar was "honest, genuine, with a first-class intellect".

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin congratulated the incoming Taoiseach, but issued a stark warning that soundbites and media leaks were not enough for good government.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams congratulated Mr Varadkar and welcomed his family to Leinster House on "a proud day for them".

However, he then quickly went on the attack, stressing that he feared the new Taoiseach "would drag Fine Gael to the left".

He criticised Mr Varadkar's record as Health Minister and Social Protection Minister.

Mr Adams warned that Mr Varadkar had in the past mistakenly engaged in abuse and invective during Dail exchanges.

"I hope the new Taoiseach does not repeat that mistake. I think he is a decent man. I wish him well," Mr Adams said. He also joked that he and Mr Varadkar once attended the same Pilates class.

"I don't think we could get the former Taoiseach to stretch that far," he said.

Labour Party leader Brendan Howlin paid a warm personal tribute to the new Taoiseach and wished him and his partner well.

He warned, however, that the Government was rowing back from progress made by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition of 2011 to 2016.

"It is my hope that you can re-start the 'engine of government'," he said.

Former Labour Party leader Joan Burton, who is a Dublin West constituency colleague, warmly welcomed the new Taoiseach's parents and his partner.

She said their constituency was the "most diverse part of Ireland" with a huge population from all over the world.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said he had no wish to be mean-spirited on such a special day for Mr Varadkar and his family, but he reminded the Dail of families living in poverty and urged an abandonment of the "politics of personality" and a new focus on the issues.

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