Ireland's first gay prime minister
Until as recently as 1993 homosexuality was a punishable crime in Ireland. Now the country will have an openly gay prime minister: Leo Varadkar of the conservative party Fine Gael, who succeeds Enda Kenny as party leader and head of government. Commentators see Varadkar's imminent inauguration as a sign of how much things have changed in Ireland.
Sign of a historic change
It speaks volumes that the new prime minister's sexual orientation wasn't even a major issue in Ireland, the Financial Times comments approvingly:
“Today, most Irish people do not care where or with whom their political leaders sleep at night. There has been much more interest in and comment on Mr Varadkar's sexuality abroad than at home. Nevertheless, given the historic discrimination against the Irish gay community, his victory is important. He is also the son of an Indian immigrant, highlighting how his story is part of the other significant change in modern Irish history: the extent to which a country that was once ravaged by emigration has become host to a sizeable population of immigrants.”
Equality is a constant struggle
Considered conservative on many issues, Varadkar should stand up for equal rights in areas where they are lacking, The Irish Times urges:
“Varadkar, who can often come across as awkward and distant, seems to have a problem connecting with the public on emotive issues such as abortion. Some of his comments on reproductive rights have been confusing and unhelpful. But he should also know that his own identity is intrinsically intertwined with women's rights. Feminists fought for Varadkar to be able to live an open and accepted life as a gay man. They fought in the courts, on the streets, in the Dáil and Seanad, on the airwaves, and on the doors, for people - despite their differences - just like Varadkar. Hopefully we can look forward to having a taoiseach who is a 'big deal' for everyone's rights.”