Ireland's PM 'big news for the world' say Indian family

Leo Varadkar (AFP)

The Indian family of Ireland's new  Prime Minister Leo Varadkar have said his election is "big news for the world", and are looking forward to his first official visit to the country of his ancestors.

Dublin-born Varadkar's father is an Indian doctor who emigrated to Ireland, and he regularly visited the family home in the western city of Mumbai as a child.

Speaking to AFP from there, his first cousin Shubhada Varadkar said his win was "big news for the world" and a testament to Ireland's openness.

"There's something amazing about democracy, its values, and Ireland that allowed Leo to become its leader," she told AFP at the family home in Borivali, a busy, middle-class suburb to the north of India's financial capital.

"Leo stayed at our Mumbai house on numerous occasions as a child. His parents love traditional Indian cuisine."

The meteoric rise of the openly gay 38-year-old to become the country's youngest ever taoiseach, or prime minister, has been touted as a sign of how much Ireland's once deeply conservative society has changed.

The family said they had been glued to the television as their now famous relative was sworn in on Wednesday.

"Ireland has completely accepted him and his rousing speech represents hope in troubling times for the country," his 65-year old cousin Shekhar Varadkar told AFP.

"Leo has faced many challenges in his life and succeeded against odds. Right now, Ireland is facing difficult issues including the impending Brexit, and he will provide strong leadership."

Shubhada said her cousin had already met Narendra Modi once, when the Indian prime minister went to Ireland in 2015, but she was looking forward to his first official visit.

"We look forward to Leo's India visit and meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They met previously when Modi visited Ireland and was received by Leo," Shubhada said.

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