Irish prime minister seeks new mandate in February election

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has sought a fresh mandate to govern Ireland

“As a nation, we have every reason to be hopeful about the future,'' he said in a Dublin speech. “We've modernized our society — marriage equality, women's rights, real progress in education, welfare and childcare. But, it's not enough. I know it's not enough.”

Though Varadkar framed the timing around future EU negotiations, his administration had been facing potential defeat in a vote of no confidence in Health Minister Simon Harris in the first week of next month. That prospect will now be averted.

“People want their government to do much more,'' Varadkar said. “And I want us to do much more.”

The contest will be Varadkar's first election as prime minister. He succeeded Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader in 2017.