Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister, was sworn into office on Wednesday, June 14.
According to NPR, Varadkar always feared that the role of prime minister was, in his words, “beyond my reach, at least if I chose to be myself.”
Since Ireland is a notoriously Catholic and conservative country, this is huge deal for LGBTQ involvement in politics. AT 38, Varadkar is also the youngest prime minister in history, and he is of Indian descent.
Varadkar is taking over as leader of the Fine Gael Party, the same party under which Prime minister Enda Kenny helped to usher in marriage equality.
“Enda Kenny’s leadership enabled me to become an equal citizen in my own country two short years ago,” he told NPR, “and to aspire to hold this office, an aspiration I once thought was beyond my reach, at least if I chose to be myself.”
Varadkar is liberal on most social issues, but he is fiscally conservative. One of his major priorities upon taking office is to strengthen ties with the European Union. He is the fourth openly gay politician to lead a country in Europe.
“What it does mean is that gay and lesbian people are now seen as incredibly ordinary,” Andrew Hyland, director of Ireland’s marriage equality campaign, told NPR. “As far as I can see, it hasn’t been an issue at all in the leadership contest.”
It remains to be seen if Varadkar’s partner, Matthew Barrett, will take a public role.