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Announcement of formal resignation of Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD Dáil Éireann

9th April 2024 - Leo Varadkar, TD

A Cheann Comhairle, tá orm a chur in iúl duit gur éirigh mé as oifig mar Thaoiseach inné trína chur sin in iúl don Uachtarán de bhun an Bhunreachta.


 Yesterday, I resigned from the office of Taoiseach by placing my resignation in the hands of the President, pursuant to the Constitution.


I have had the privilege to serve for the past 20 years as a public representative, 13 as a member of Cabinet, seven as leader of my Party, as Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Taoiseach again. It’s been the most fulfilling and rewarding time of my life.  Today is the beginning of a new era for my Party, a new chapter in my life and a new phase for the coalition Government.

I want to offer some special words of thanks to my constituents in Castleknock/Blanchardstown and Dublin West who have elected me to represent them on Fingal County Council and Dáil Éireann on five separate occasions. I shall continue as their TD and look forward to being a full-time parliamentarian and constituency TD again.

I want to thank my loyal, brilliant and hardworking staff most of whom left Government Buildings for the last time this morning when I did.

I want to thank my Party for choosing me to be their leader and for their support and confidence these last seven years.

I want to thank my ministerial colleagues.  They are among the most talented, committed and capable people I know in particular Minister Simon Coveney who leaves Government today as well.


I want to thank the Tánaiste and Minister Ryan.  This historic Government ended civil war politics in our parliament and was the first to include Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party.  The trust and respect we built up together ensured that this Government is solid and stayed the course and I think will be a model for future coalitions of equals in this State and elsewhere.


I want to thank the civil and public service for their commitment to this State.  They might not put themselves on ballot papers in the way politicians do but they do put public service first like we do and that ought to be recognised more.


Ceann Comhairle, before I leave this seat, I would like to offer six short reflections:


The first is that Ireland is a great country.  We have been a stable and continuous democracy for over a hundred years, one of only a handful in the World.  We have our problems for sure but we are free, prosperous and safe with huge opportunities for our citizens that would have been unimaginable in the past.  In almost every ranking, we are placed in the top ten or top 20 countries in a world of 200.  We are not a failed state, we are a great state.  We should love it, protect it and build on all that has been achieved since independence to make it better.


The second is that most, if not all, of the problems we have faced in the past 15 years are international in origin or have a strong international dimension to them – the banking and financial crash, Brexit, the pandemic, inflation, the energy crisis, climate change, migration were all problem of global origin.   Even challenges like health and housing, that are more domestic in nature, have strong international dimensions.


Health services are under pressure all over the world due to rising and aging populations, the development of new, often expensive, treatments and a global skills shortage.  Ireland is not an outlier on health.  Much of what we face in housing is linked to changes in the way housing construction and purchase are financed – as well as a rising population and rising incomes, there was a prolonged period of low interest rates and the internationalisation of how new homebuilding and mortgages are funded has meant profound changes in the rental and housing markets.

Ireland is an island but not a separate planet.  It’s a fallacy to believe that most of our problems are homegrown or due to any particular political party or ideology.  They are mostly global megatrends.  We are a small ship on a big and restless ocean and we need that ship to be crewed by good people.  The only workable solutions involve multilateralism tackling these challenges with other countries through international bodies like the EU, the UN system and OECD and international agreements.  We must not lose sight of this.


The third is to guard against the risk of excessive caution.  The majority of officials, advisory bodies and academic will always recommend caution, playing it safe, conservative with a small ‘c’.  It’s not always the best advice.  Certainly, had we known the economy would recover so quickly after the crash, that it would not stagnate due to Brexit and it would bounce back so strongly after COVID, many of the investment decisions we made would have been made a year or two or three sooner.  Policies that are now starting to show results, would have done so much earlier has we been a little more confident.


The fourth is health.  Health is not a black hole.  Health can be fixed.  It’s just expensive, takes time and is never easy due to resistance to reform.  Just don’t give up.  As the international medical journal, the Lancet acknowledged a few weeks ago, Ireland in the past seven years has become ‘a more equitable place, not least in terms of health’.  People live longer and healthier lives than every before.  Most people no longer have to pay to see their GP or stay the night in public hospital.  Survival rates for stroke and heart attack and many cancers have dramatically improved in the past ten years.  Waiting lists have fallen for two years in a row and will again this year.  Private practice is being phased out of our public hospitals and the budget for new buildings, IT and equipment has trebled.


We now per capita have levels of spending and investment that are comparable with our peers, more nurses per head than almost any country in the developed world and more doctors per head than most developed countries including Britain and Australia albeit not always doing the right work in the right places with the right support.  My point is that Universal Healthcare is achievable.  It will need ongoing leadership, political prioritisation and investment.


The fifth is national security.  For the first time in decades, we have a full scale war in Europe with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Sweden has abandoned 200 years of neutrality.  Finland has joined NATO. Some European countries are debating the reintroduction of national service, others raising taxes, cutting expenditure and reducing holidays to pay for increased defence spending.  European leaders I speak to see very dark clouds on the near horizon.  They may be wrong.  I hope they are wrong.  We cannot assume they are or ignore the growing risks of a world in which democracy is in retreat and autocrats more powerful.  Our geography and neutrality does not protect us in the way it did in the past and the nature of security threats has changed utterly.  We have to be prepared for the consequences of an attack on an EU country and how we would respond.

The sixth is us, as politicians.  There has been much debate about the change in tone in political debate, the growth and encouragement of anger, a new coarseness, even toxicity.  It’s true that these are reflections of changes in our society and are amplified by algorithms and social media.  But it’s also something that we, are at least in part, responsible for ourselves.  We should not twist each other’s words, misquote each other, misrepresent each other, demonise each other.  We should be much slower to question each other’s motives.  We need to learn to disagree better.  I have worked in Government with members of four parties and none and I have seen people move from Government to Opposition.  In my constituency and on particular campaigns, I have worked with people from political traditions and perspective opposite to mine.  With very few exceptions, they are all people who are motivated by a desire to improve their country and communities.


Ceann Comhairle


Working with colleagues, I have had the honour of helping to lead Ireland from unemployment to full employment, from budget deficit to budget surplus to a point where we have the resources to invest in public services and public good in a way we could not in the past, from austerity to prosperity, through a pandemic in which we saved lives and livelihoods, and through Brexit where we prevented a hard border between North and South and protected our place in Europe.


We have made the country a more equal and more modern place when it comes to the rights of children, the LGBT community and women.  More recently, we have led the country through an inflation and cost of living crisis, the worst of which is now thankfully behind us.


We have made significant steps towards affordable childcare and universal healthcare.


We’ve made work pay better, with higher pay and lower personal taxes, the phased introduction of a national Living Wage and statutory sick pay, pay-related benefits and better family leave.  I was pleased that at my last cabinet meeting we approved legislation to introduce auto-enrolment ensuring that all workers will have an occupational pension to top up their state pension.  This is a transformative reform that will make a real difference in the lives of millions of people for decades to come.


I am especially pleased that during my time as Taoiseach, we have doubled spending on the arts, culture and sport. This is making a real difference now, and will continue to do so into the future.


We provided leadership by increasing our spending on international development, and we have expanded our diplomatic footprint around the world, building on Ireland’s already considerable soft power. The National Broadband Plan is underway – bringing fibre-based internet connections to every home, school, business, farm and community in Ireland.


 We established the Technological Universities and the Rural Development Fund, and we have quadrupled overall annual investment in public infrastructure. This has meant considerably more investment in areas like new housing, new healthcare facilities, school buildings and climate action.


I am proud that Irish people welcomed over 100,000 refugees to our shores when they needed our protection, notwithstanding the challenges this brings.


We reduced consistent poverty and income inequality. Housing construction has more than doubled since 2017, with 500 people becoming homeowners every week for the first time – the highest number in more than a decade.

More people attend higher and further education than ever before from more diverse backgrounds.

Greenhouse gas emissions are now falling, renewable energy is booming and Ireland no longer a laggard on climate change.  We are turning the tide on climate and biodiversity loss.


The Good Friday Agreement institutions are working again, and our trading relationship with the United Kingdom, in the post-Brexit era, is settled and stable.


Of course, there are other areas in which we have been much less successful and some in which we have gone backwards, these are problems still to be solved.  There will always be problems to be solved and more work to be done.  This is now work to be led by others.


Finally, I want to take this opportunity to wish Minister Harris every success in his new role as Taoiseach.  I always knew he would be Taoiseach one day.  This is perhaps coming a little sooner than he might have planned or expected but I know he will be rise to the occasion. He has the empathy, energy, experience, campaign skills and political antennae to take us forward and I look forward to voting for him in the House later today.



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