Leo Varadkar takes over as Taoiseach ahead of Cabinet reshuffle

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Leo Varadkar has formally taken over as Taoiseach for the second time after receiving the seal of office from the President.

In a planned handover of power at the top of the ruling three-party Government, Fine Gael leader Mr Varadkar replaced Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin as taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar met with President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin on Saturday afternoon after TDs in the Dáil voted 87 to 62 to support Mr Varadkar's appointment.

After receiving the seal of office, Mr Varadkar said: “I’m honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to serve again. And I look forward to getting down to the hard work in the next few hours.”

Cabinet colleagues will also be confirmed in office by the President later in the day before the new-look Government is expected to hold its first meeting.


Newly elected Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaves Leinster House to travel to Áras an Uachtaráin. Photo: PA

After receiving a standing ovation from TDs on the Government benches when the outcome of the vote was announced, Mr Varadkar made reference to the foundation of the State 100 years ago as he vowed to deliver for the country’s citizens.

“As Taoiseach my mission will be to build on the achievement of 100 years ago, and to work on what needs to be done for this generation and the next,” he said.

“Providing hope and housing, economic opportunities and a fair start for all.

“And so I accept this nomination by the Dáil with humility and resolve, with a burning desire to make good the promise of 100 years ago and to provide new hope and new opportunities for all of our citizens,” he said.

Mr Varadkar’s parents, Miriam and Ashok, and his partner, Matthew Barrett, were among those who watched from the gallery. They later joined him at the President’s residence when his appointment was formally confirmed.

Micheál Martin and Mary Martin leaving Government Buildings in Dublin before travelling to Áras an Uachtaráin. Photo: PA

Earlier, Micheál Martin formally stepped down as taoiseach, paving the way for Mr Varadkar to succeed him in a planned handover of power.

Mr Martin tendered his resignation during an audience with the President on Saturday morning.

He said it had been “the honour of a lifetime” to serve the public as taoiseach.

In a video posted on social media, Mr Martin said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank the many, many people across the length and breadth of the country for your courtesy and kindness, as I met you on many, many engagements.

“I’m looking forward to the second phase of this Government. We’ve done a lot in the first phase but we still have a lot to do.”

Later addressing the Dáil at the start of Saturday’s sitting, Mr Martin said: “It is both a privilege and a responsibility to serve as head of government in a free and democratic republic.

“I have been deeply conscious of this every day I have held the office of Taoiseach. I have sought always to work on behalf of all the Irish people and not just those who support my party and our colleagues in government.”


President Michael D Higgins and Micheál Martin at Áras an Uachtaráin following Mr Martin's resignation as taoiseach. Photo: Maxwells

After Mr Martin addressed the Dáil, two of Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael colleagues proposed and seconded a motion nominating him as taoiseach.

Parties were then given an opportunity to comment on the motion.

Mr Martin, speaking for Fianna Fáil, paid tribute to his one-time fierce political rival.

“I want to thank him for his co-operation over the last two-and-a-half years and his dedicated work,” he said.

“The Government has worked on the many enormous pressures but we’ve succeeded in keeping our focus on moving our country forward. I look forward to maintaining this spirit during the rest of our term.”

Micheál Martin in the Dáil following his resignation as taoiseach. Photo: Maxwells

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald heavily criticised the Government’s record as she opposed the nomination of Mr Varadkar.

She said the resignation of Mr Martin should trigger a general election as she accused the coalition of being “out of touch, out of ideas and out of time”.

Ms McDonald questioned Mr Martin’s claim that the Government was delivering.

“Well, the rest of us must live in a very different Ireland from you,” she said.

“We live in an Ireland where during your time leading government the housing emergency has gotten worse, where the crisis in health has gotten worse, where households struggle to get by.


“And you now pass the baton to Leo Varadkar at a time where more than 11,000 of our people are homeless, including more than 3,000 children. Close to one million people are on treatment waiting lists, many working families queue at food banks to get a hot meal.

“Surely you cannot count this as success?”

Coalition leaders: Eamon Ryan, Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Niall Carson/PA

Setting aside almost a century of animosity, the two parties forged out of the Civil War in the 1920s agreed to share power together in 2020 after an inconclusive general election result.

The Green Party also joined the coalition.

While Fianna Fáil emerged from the 2020 poll narrowly winning the most seats (38), Sinn Féin (which won 37 seats) secured the most first preference votes.

Sinn Féin accused its two main rivals of conspiring to keep it out of power and has continued to heavily criticise the Coalition administration in its role as the main opposition party in the Dáil.

The dynamic between the three big parties is set to dominate the narrative of Irish politics leading up to the next general election, which has to take place before spring 2025.

Mr Varadkar previously served as taoiseach from 2017 to 2020 at the head of a minority Fine Gael administration that relied on a confidence and supply arrangement with Fianna Fáil to maintain power.


The mid-term switch of taoiseach will also prompt a Cabinet reshuffle. However, there is expected to be minimal movement among the departmental portfolios.

Mr Martin will become Tánaiste and will also take on a ministerial post.

Mr Varadkar held the enterprise brief when he served as tánaiste and will vacate that post upon becoming taoiseach.

Taoiseach rotation shows 'political maturity' but...
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One scenario could see Mr Martin become Minister for Foreign Affairs – a position he held more than a decade ago.

The current Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, could then potentially replace his party leader Mr Varadkar at the helm of the Department of Enterprise.

It has already been agreed as part of the coalition agreement that Fine Gael Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe and Fianna Fáil Minister for Public Expenditure Michael McGrath will switch roles.

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