HomeWorldVaradkar returns as Irish leader in job-sharing political deal

Varadkar returns as Irish leader in job-sharing political deal

LONDON (AP) — Leo Varadkar will return for a second term as Ireland’s prime minister as part of a jobs-sharing agreement made by the country’s coalition government.

Varadkar was nominated to replace Micheál Martin in a planned handover during a special session of the Dail, the lower house of Ireland’s parliament. He is scheduled to be officially confirmed as prime minister later on Saturday.

Martin has served as Ireland’s leader, or taoiseach, since a 2020 election that produced a historic coalition deal between his Fianna Fáil party and Varadkar’s Fine Gael.

Forming a government together with the smaller Greens, the parties agreed that Martin would hold the top job with Varadkar as his deputy for the first half of a five-year term, before the men switched positions.

Martin, 62, tendered his resignation to President Michael D. Higgins on Saturday morning. He said that it had been “the honor of a lifetime” to serve as taoiseach and that he was “looking forward to the second phase of this government.”

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The government is facing a daunting set of challenges, including a housing crisis, skyrocketing energy costs, an overstretched healthcare system and thorny post-Brexit relations with the UK.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are centrist parties, with a fierce rivalry stemming from their origins on opposite sides of Ireland’s civil war a century ago. They have dominated Irish politics for decades, but have never formed a government together before.

Their coalition deal excluded the left-wing nationalist party Sinn Fein, which won the most votes in the 2020 election but was unable to muster enough support to govern. The two centrist parties have long shunned Sinn Fein because of its historical links to the Irish Republican Army and decades of violence in Northern Ireland, but it continues to garner support, especially among younger voters.

Varadkar, 43, served as prime minister from 2017 to 2020 – the country’s youngest leader and the first openly gay prime minister. Varadkar, whose mother is Irish and his father Indian, was also Ireland’s first biracial Taoiseach.

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