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Who is Leo Varadkar? The man tipped to be the next Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar has never been shy about his ambitions.

As a precocious seven-year-old he declared his lofty intention to be Minister for Health one day.

That achievement came when he was just 35 and with his progression through the cabinet ranks he steadily began to cement himself as the clear favourite to succeed Enda Kenny as leader of Fine Gael and as next Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar is I reland's first openly gay cabinet minister and the son of an immigrant doctor from India.

Some in his inner circle suggest he has been working on his challenge for the last six years, methodically building relations with parliamentary colleagues while relentlessly maintaining his career trajectory.

He is only 38.

And it is a combination of his youth, background and straight-talking that the party faithful think will be a major selling point in elections if his face is emblazoned on posters up and down the country.

Mr Varadkar is a Trinity College qualified doctor and he has been in a relationship with another medic for about two years.

While his centre-right politics are clearly conservative, he portrays the image of a new, progressive Ireland, symbolised best in May 2015 when the country voted overwhelmingly in favour of gay marriage.

It came just a few months after Mr Varadkar himself revealed in a radio interview that he was gay.

When the result of the referendum was known, the then health minister declared: "To me this had the feeling of a social movement or a social revolution."

In his relatively short time in the upper echelons of politics Mr Varadkar has set himself apart with a straight-talking attitude.

As transport minister he broke ranks to praise two garda whistle-blowers as distinguished - a remark in stark contrast to former Garda commissioner Martin Callinan's d escription of their actions as "disgusting".

But it is this same shoot from the hip attitude that creates enemies and something that could cost him.

In 2007, not long after he won a seat in national politics for the first time, he lashed out at Bertie Ahern while he was mired in controversy over his financial affairs.

Mr Varadkar took a swipe at the beleaguered taoiseach of the day claiming the gutter was his "natural habitat".

In the contest for the Fine Gael leadership Mr Varadkar declared himself as the candidate for "people who get up early in the morning".

And while his public remarks are said to be drilled and scripted to the last iota, that is the kind of statement that could dramatically backfire in a general election.

One of his drawbacks is that he is seen as being too much of a Dublin man.

Joe McHugh, a ministerial colleague who has been firmly in the Varadkar camp, brought him to the heart of his Donegal constituency in the days before the campaign proper began and spoke in glowing terms about his intellect, communication skills and willingness to learn.

"He has a craving to try and understand things," he said.

"No-one is going to know everything. And there is a humility there. He will accept that if he's successful.

"He will have that awareness, that emotional intelligence as some people call it, to know that he still has a lot to learn."

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