Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has u-turned on his own 2015 revelations he has an "exit strategy" for leaving politics in the next decade, saying he is now "100% committed to this job" and will stay "for as long as the people want me", write Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Daniel McConnell.
The Fine Gael leader back-tracked on his own prediction just two years ago he could leave politics before he turns 50, saying he has not talked about quitting "for a very long time".
In a 2015 interview, then Social Protection Minister Mr Varadkar said he did not intend on staying in politics and was keen to quit the Dáil over the next decade.
Saying he had an "exit strategy" and "definitely" wanted to do something else in the near future, Mr Varadkar said at the time "I don’t see myself in politics at 51, whatever I do next it will be different, not politics".
Critics have repeatedly used the 2015 remarks to question his commitment to the public and putting the needs of the country before his own.
However, speaking to reporters, the Taoiseach said he no longer wants to leave politics and is "100% committed" to staying in the job.
"I think I answered that question before and I regret answering the way I did because it was mistaken by some people as a lack of commitment to politics.
"I can absolutely guarantee you that I’m 100% committed to this job, as Taoiseach, leading my party and doing everything I can for my constituency of Dublin West, so that’s my focus at the moment.
"I haven’t contemplated retirement from politics for a very long time and I can assure you I’ll be around for as long as the people want me," he said.
The decision by Mr Varadkar to u-turn on his previous prediction he would not remain in politics forever comes as rumours continue to persist over his desire to remain in the Dáil for his entire career.
Mr Varadkar reached the pinnacle of Irish politics last year when he replaced Enda Kenny as Taoiseach and has a high-profile among the national and international public.
However, there is a belief from some within his own party that he will not remain in politics for long if Fine Gael was forced to spend a prolonged period in opposition.
Mr Varadkar’s decision to emphasise his long-term commitment to remaining in politics is likely to be used to convince voters he should be returned to power after the next general election, which has long been rumoured to be set for either this year or the first half of 2019.