Leo Varadkar had been considering resigning as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael since the holidays, it has emerged.

“Really only definitively at the weekend,” Varadkar told reporters on Wednesday about when he made his decision, according to The Journal.

“But obviously, I’d been weighing it up I suppose since Christmas, New Year, but definitively only at the weekend.

“I think once you decide that you don’t want to stay on, you can’t say on.”

Varadkar told The Journal that he used his personal time on Saturday while in Washington, DC to tell his staff about his decision.

When asked if he had any opportunities in America, he replied with a laugh: "I have no CVs printed, I have not been looking around."

Varadkar tells @thejournal_ie that he made the final decision to step down over the weekend in Washington DC https://t.co/BfIWveD6bO pic.twitter.com/pPCDCbm4Zs

— Christina Finn (@christinafinn8) March 20, 2024

Varadkar made his surprise resignation announcement just after noon on Wednesday, March 20. He had spent the previous week in the US, visiting both Boston and Washington, DC.

In his live address in Dublin on Wednesday, Varadkar said he was resigning for reasons that were both "personal and political."

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 of 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 16, thus allowing a new Taoiseach to be elected when the Dáil resumes after the Easter break."

The surprise announcement prompted reaction across the Irish political sphere, as well as in Northern Ireland and the US.

While some wished Varadkar well, others, including the heads of Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, and Labour Party, began calling for a general election.

RTÉ reported on Wednesday night that Fine Gael's executive council decided that nominations to become the next party leader will open at 10 am on Thursday and close next Monday at 1 pm.

Fine Gael will then elect its new leader at its Ard Fheis in April. The selection will then go to a Dáil vote to become the next Taoiseach.

Simon Harris, Helen McEntee, Paschal Donohoe, and Jennifer Carroll MacNeill have all been floated as contenders. Simon Coveney was also considered to be a contender, though he told RTÉ on Wednesday "I made a decision quite some time ago that I wouldn’t stand in another leadership contest."