Leo Varadkar announced today, Wednesday, March 20, that he is resigning as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland and leader of his political party Fine Gael.

Varadkar made the surprise announcement just after noon on Wednesday during a live press conference in Dublin.

He said: "When I became party leader and Taoiseach back in June 2017, I knew that one part of leadership is knowing when the time has come to pass on the bat on to somebody else and then having the courage to do it.

"That time is now.

"So, I am resigning as president leader of Fine Gael effective today and will resign as Taoiseach as soon as my successor is able to take up that office.

"I have asked our party general secretary and executive council to provide for the new leader to be elected in advance of the Ard Fheis on Saturday, April 6, thus allowing a new Taoiseach to be elected when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break.

"I know that this will come as a surprise to many people, and a disappointment to some and I hope at least that you will understand my decision.

"I know that others will - how shall I put it - cope with the news just fine. That is the great thing about living in a democracy."

After acknowledging there is "never a right time to resign high office," Varadkar said that his reasons for stepping down are both "personal and political."

He added: "I am standing aside in the absolute confidence that the country and the economy are in a good place and that my colleagues in government from all three parties - Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and the Greens - and the Oireachtas will continue to work hard for the nation's best interests."

He continued: "I will of course continue to fulfill my duties as Taoiseach until a new one is elected and will remain as a constituency TD for Dublin West.

"I know, inevitably, there will be speculation as to the quote-unquote real reason for my decision. These are the real reasons. That's it, I have nothing else lined up. I have nothing in mind, I have no definite personal or political plans, but I am really looking forward to having the time to think about them."

You can watch Leo Varadkar's resignation announcement here: