Leo Varadkar with Meath East TDs, Regina Doherty and Helen McEntee in 2017

Taoiseach Resigns: Meath politicians react to shock announcement by Leo Varadkar

Fine Gael Cllr Alan Tobin for Ashbourne says be believes Leo Varadkar stepped down as Taoiseach and resigned as party leader because he "saw the writing on the wall" and left "before he was pushed."

Speaking after the shock announcement made at Govt Buildings today, Tobin said:

"I presume he sees the writing on the wall a little bit and wants to give someone else the opportunity rather than having to be pushed out because the numbers just aren't improving.

"In local elections it's different, in Meath we punch above our weight. Nationally it will allow someone else come in and give energy.

"I did feel like he was lacking energy since he became Taoiseach the second time.

Tobin added that Varadkar "was never the members choice".

"When he was elected that time as Taoiseach, he got a resounding vote from the TDs, councillors and senators.

"When the hustings were done with Simon Coveney that time, the people on the ground then overwhelmingly supported Coveney.

"But because the election was weighted - as in a TD had more of a say over me - and then I had more of a say over a member - he won it hands down.

"When that happened I thought you need to go out and visit the branches and visit the constituencies, you need to get those people on your side and he never did."

Tobin says Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee is a clear runner to fill Leo's boots as leader of the party.

"I think Helen would be a great leader," said the Ashbourne councillor.

"I'd hope that the Dublin riots wouldn't mean that couldn't happen," he added. "I'd love to see her being given an opportunity. Other than that I think Paschal Donohoe would someone there too.

"Simon Harris is one that was always mooted to be leader at some stage too. Helen and Heather Humphreys are the most senior women in the cabinet, it would be great to see Helen give it a go."

Former Fine Gael Cllr Noel French announced last year that he was standing down from the party and intended on contesting the local elections in June as an independent for Trim.

He says Leo's departure came as a "huge shock."

"It is a shock for Fine Gael as well because I haven't heard anything about it," said French. He (Leo Varadkar) was a canny operator who got himself elected as leader of the party," he added.

"The membership and the councillors did not support him at the time."

Commenting on his stint as leader French said:

"I just wonder how well he listened to people. I'm not sure he did a lot of listening to the ordinary people and their concerns. I think he was a bit out of touch with the ordinary man and woman in the street.

The Trim councillor is also backing Helen McEntee to take a shot at the leadership.

"I think we could have Meath taoiseach again," said French. "Helen has performed excellently.

Is Simon Coveney going to throw his hat back into the ring? Simon Harris would be another potential candidate. We will have to wait and see."

Laytown/Bettystown Fine Gael Cllr Sharon Tolan says she thinks Helen McEntee could be the country's first female taoiseach.

"We have stellar candidates there, there are a number of names being mentioned, you wouldn't find that in other parties so we are really lucky in having really good calibre candidates," said Tolan.

"We have to wait and see who wants to take on the challenge. In the back of my mind for a long time I've always felt that Helen McEntee would be our first female taoiseach, this may well be her opportunity."

Tolan says she was "as shocked as anyone" when the news broke. She added:

"It' no secret that I didn't vote for him (Leo) as leader, I supported Simon Coveney but I was one hundred percent behind him from the moment he was elected as our party leader.

"I'm really sad for him. I think it was probably a decision he made out of honour and respect for us. He obviously thought we would stand a better chance at the polls without him. It's a measure of the man that he is that he is doing it for the good of the party and the good of the country.

"I think he did a great job but politics does take its toll on you. He has served for a long time as a TD and a member of government and as a minister and as our taoiseach and it can't be an easy job. It's great when you have wins, it's a difficult one when you have the losses."

Commenting on a number of Fine Gael TDs nationwide stepping out of the race in the next election, Tolan said:

"I think that's a good thing. Politics needs to be refreshed all of the time. We all have a shelf life, it's not for the faint hearted that's for sure."

Fine Gael Cllr for Ratoath MD, Maria Murphy said:

"It was a shock and something I wasn't expecting. I fully support him as leader of our party and as Taoiseach.

"I worked very closely with him when I started in politics and I was very fond of him and I always will be.

"He always said that when it was time to go, he'd go and wouldn't be in it for the long haul so he's made that decision and we have to respect that.

"Politics is always interesting, you don't know what it is going to bring!"

Meanwhile Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín said the office of Taoiseach was being "passed around like snuff at a wake without democratic mandate"

Tóibín has welcomed the resignation of Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach and leader of Fine Gael, but has called on the government to hold a General Election to be held on the same day as the Local Elections.

Deputy Tóibín said: "Under Varadkar's leadership, Fine Gael have not won any elections. He has been a failure by any objective measure when one looks at the rising housing and healthcare crises. In recent times his survival method seems to have been to capitulate to NGOs and culture wars.

"He emerged from the recent referendum results extremely weakened. The office of Taoiseach has already been passed around like snuff at a wake, without democratic mandate since the last election, what we face now is a third Taoiseach since the election. This is wrong and undemocratic. Leo Varadkar should have done the right thing and called a general election to be held on the same day as the local and European elections".

Deputy Tóibín continued: "In October 2019, Leo Varadkar, as Taoiseach, apologised to the women wronged by the CervicalCheck scandal and promised that no woman would ever have to go through courts again to get justice. Despite that promise, four years later more than 170 women have done just that and have gone through the court system to get justice. Leo Varadkar was Minister for Health at the time the CervicalCheck scandal happened. However, he said he has no recollection of being informed of it.

As Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar said, short of an asteroid hitting this planet, the national children's hospital would be built for €750 million and open by 2020. It is currently double that cost - the cost could reach €2 billion before it is open - and will not be open until 2025. It is an incredible situation that a party which prides itself as a party of prudence is actually the party that is presiding over serious cost overruns across capital projects".

"When Leo Varadkar was in his last year as Taoiseach, 35 of the 38 most significant capital projects in the State were over budget, including the national broadband plan, the national maternity hospital and others. It seems that when one puts the word "national" beside a capital project in this country, it adds hundreds of millions of euro to the cost and puts the project way over time. On his way out of health, Deputy Varadkar cut the mental health budget in the State by a third. His record speaks for itself. We need an election this side of the summer recess", concluded Tóibín.