Although predominantly Catholic, Ireland is set to choose Leo Varadkar as its next taoiseach, or prime minister.

The search for the next Fine Gael party leader began on 17th May with the resignation of Enda Kenny, and 38-year-old Varadkar is set to succeed him. The former GP would enter the history books as the youngest prime minister in Irish history, if he wins the leadership battle in June. It is nearly 30 years since the first openly gay person – David Norris – was elected to public office.

Homosexuality in Ireland was only decriminalised in 1993 and Varadkar came out as gay in 2015.

“It's not something that defines me. I'm not a half-Indian politician or doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It's just part of who I am.”

Dealing with homophobia in politics

The 38-year-old has a partner, Matt Barrett, also a doctor. If Varadkar is formally accepted as Irish PM, there is speculation on how the two men will be received at formal functions with other political leaders such as Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. Niall O'Dowd of the Irish Voice reported that he was looking forward to Varadkar's reception at the “homophobic” White House.

Varadkar's political credentials include being the minister for social protection and has served as health minister for the right-leaning Fine Gael, who are currently leading a minority government in Ireland.

His appointment looks set to be a shoe-in. Declared party members say he has such a strong lead that his succession to Kenny is considered a formality.

However, Health Minister Simon Harris said there were still some Cabinet ministers who have not yet declared their support. Harris called into question Varadkar's claim that he has "brought almost all of Cabinet behind me," according to a report in the Irish Independent.

Cost-cutting conservative

On the political right, Dublin-born Varadkar was called “Tory boy” at school, and later in life trade unions have branded him as a “Thatcherite” after he was in favour of banning strikes in the public sector in essential services.

On his Twitter account, Varakdar says he is a fitness fan, who has been known to talk too much and likes to travel.

He sees himself as a cost-cutting conservative.

If elected, Varadkar joins the growing number of youthful politicians including 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron, French president, and Justin Trudeau, 45, prime minister of Canada.

Ireland would be the fourth country to have an openly gay head of state, should Varadkar become taoiseach. Iceland's Johanna Siguroardottir, Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel and Elio Di Rupo from Belgium are the other gay politicians to head a government.