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'A very special moment' - Varadkar celebrates the new year in India

Independent.ie logo Independent.ie 31/12/2019 Gabija Gataveckaite
a group of people posing for the camera: Home away from home: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits his ancestral home in India Home away from home: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar visits his ancestral home in India

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is set to ring in the new year in India as part of a private visit to the country with his family and partner Matt Barrett.

He visited his ancestral village of Varad in Maharashtra state in west India on Sunday.

It is understood the Taoiseach has been joined on the trip by his parents, his sisters, their husbands, some of their children and Mr Barrett.

This was Mr Varadkar's first visit to Varad in the Malvan Tehsil district, around 500km from Mumbai.

While the Taoiseach has visited India several times before, this was his first trip to Varad, the place his father Dr Ashok Varadkar hails from.

a group of people standing in a room: Good to meet you: Leo Varadkar is all smiles as he and partner Matt Barrett join villagers in Varad Good to meet you: Leo Varadkar is all smiles as he and partner Matt Barrett join villagers in Varad

Three generations of his family gathered for the visit, and Mr Varadkar also visited a local temple.

"I am here with my parents, my sisters and their husbands, my partner and some grandchildren are here... so it is a big family visit," the Taoiseach told local reporters.

He said it was a "very special moment" as he visited "a place of my grandfather".

"I am on a private visit here as of now, but I would like to visit this place again in the official capacity," he said.

His cousin Shubhada Varadkar acted as an interpreter for the Taoiseach, as the main language spoken in the Indian state of Maharashtra is Marathi.

This is a private visit and Mr Varadkar will not be making any formal Government engagements.

His father, Dr Ashok Varadkar, left India in 1966 and moved to the United Kingdom.

He married Waterford woman Miriam Howell and they raised Mr Varadkar and his two sisters Sonia and Sophie in West Dublin.

The Taoiseach's father is turning 80 and according to paternal cousin Shubhada, it was his idea to visit the village.

"It was the happiest day of the year for villagers in Varad. Leo wanted no protocol and security to be followed, as he was on a private visit to India," she told the 'Times of India'.

"He was curious about understanding village life and wanted to see where the place from where he drives his surname.

"So when his father came up with the idea of visiting the village, Leo happily agreed."

The Taoiseach's trip to India comes on the back of Mr Varadkar telling the 'Sunday Independent' last week that he was surprised by the amount of people who asked if he was "going back to India" for Christmas.

"They don't mean it that way but it is a way of thinking," he said.

"I was born in the Rotunda. I'm not from India. People don't hear what they're saying sometimes but I've also never been somebody who goes on about it."

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