The Irish liberal-conservative Fine Gael party has announced that the successor to outgoing Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who stepped down in May having served as party leader since 2002 and Premier since 2011, will be Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar has become a symbol for many of the changing faces of Ireland, in a shift away from traditional politics of a Roman Catholic country, as the son of an Indian immigrant and openly gay since 2015.

Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland until 1993, part of a legacy which many see Varadkar as challenging. Despite coming to embody this liberalising of social acceptance in Ireland, Varadkar is politically conservative, and his policy on abortion reflects this. However, it is impossible to refute that his appointment contains huge symbolic meaning. His appointment must be endorsed by the independent members of the minority coalition government, but this is seen as a formality and he is essentially the incoming Taoiseach.

In the radio interview in 2015, when he came out, Varadkar said: “It’s not something that defines me. I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician, or a gay politician, for that matter. It’s just part of who I am. It doesn’t define me. It is part of my character, I suppose.”

The focus has been on these aspects of him. In the future it will be on the leadership he provides.