Irish premier Leo Varadkar has announced he is to step down as Taoiseach and is resigning as leader of his party, Fine Gael.

In an emotional speech outside Government Buildings in Dublin, Mr Varadkar said his tenure as Taoiseach had been “the most fulfilling time of my life”.

Flanked by party colleagues, he said his resignation as Fine Gael leader was effective from Wednesday and he will step down as Taoiseach when a successor is selected.

The announcement comes after a turbulent number of weeks for the Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Green Party coalition government.

It was resoundingly beaten in two referendums on changes ministers had proposed to the Irish constitution.

The comprehensive defeats were a significant blow to Mr Varadkar and other coalition leaders who had campaigned for “Yes Yes” votes in the plebiscites.

He said his decision to quit was both “personal and political”.

“I believe this government can be re-elected and I believe my party, Fine Gael, can gain seats in the next poll,” he said.

“Most of all I believe the re-election of this three-party government would be the right thing for the future of our country.

“Continuing to take us forward, protecting all that has been achieved and building on it.

“But, after careful consideration and some soul searching, I believe that a new taoiseach and a new leader will be better placed than me to achieve that, to renew and strengthen the team, to focus our message and policies, to drive implementation.

“And, after seven years in office, I don’t feel I’m the best person for that job anymore.”

The announcement comes ahead of local government and European Parliament elections in Ireland in June.

The next general election must be held by early spring next year.

Over the last year, 10 Fine Gael TDs have announced their intention to step away from politics at the general election, fuelling speculation of internal discontent within the party.

Cabinet ministers met in Dublin for the first time on Wednesday since the referenda defeats.

Mr Varadkar, 45, has also just returned from the United States where he was involved in several high-profile engagements with President Joe Biden as part of traditional St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

He is currently serving his second term as Taoiseach.

Mr Varadkar, who first became premier in 2017, once insisted he would not remain in politics beyond the age of 50, albeit he later said he regretted making that pledge.