>> The favorite to become the next Irish prime minister is an openly gay man with an Indian immigrant father. And that could be a big deal in a country long associated with conservative Catholicism. Leo Varadkar topping the polls to take over when Enda Kenny steps down on June 2nd.
Currently social protection minister, the 38 year old is the bookmakers' number one to take the top spot at ruling party Fine Gael, and then be voted in as the PM. Reuters Dublin Bureau Chief Halpin.>> I think it would be another landmark to show how far the country has come socially in the last 20 years.
I mean 20 years ago, for example, divorce wasn't legal in Ireland. But I think what was striking, in a sense, in the campaigns of ours is that this landmark isn't even being talked about. It, in itself, shows, I think, how far the country has come.>> Ireland was one of the last countries in the EU to decriminalize homosexual activity.
It voted to recognize same-sex marriage only in 2015. Varadkar's supporters say he is the change candidate, a charismatic man whose straight-talking manner could widen the party's appeal. His rival in the race is 44-year-old Housing Minister Simon Coveney. But it's likely neither of them will rock the boat too much if elected.
>> Both contenders, they've been ministers in the cabinet under Kenny since 2011. They don't have a huge amount of room for maneuver when it comes to the upcoming budget at the end of this year. And then, from a financial markets point of view, I think analysts would see both candidates as very fiscally safe, fairly neutral, so don't expect anything vastly different in terms of fiscal policy.
>> An Irish Times tracking poll has Varadkar leading Coveney by a margin of more than two-to-one. That according to 44% of parliamentary party members and councilors, who have declared their preference. That group making up two-thirds of the party electorate.