Leo Varadkar has u-turned on his plan to retire from politics by the age of 51, saying he is now a career politician.
The Social Protection Minister said in 2015 that he had an “exit strategy” because he “definitely” wanted to do something else.
“I don’t see myself in politics at 51. Whatever I do next it will be different, not politics,” he said.
However, as he made his first public appearance since the start of the Fine Gael leadership race Mr Varadkar said he is now in it for the long haul.
The 38-year-old said: “I’m absolutely committed to politics. So long as I feel I’m committed to politics and I do feel I’m making a difference it’s going to be a job and a career for me. So long as the people want me.”
Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who stood alongside Mr Varadkar on Leo Street in north-inner Dublin city centre, said he expects the doctor to be leader for “many, many years”.
The two ministers arrived at the event with coffees and Leo branded cupcakes for the media.
Mr Varadkar has boost into a massive early lead in the race to succeed Enda Kenny but told reporters: “I’m not counting my chickens.”
“I’m really humbled at the level of support I have received from my colleagues. I really looking forward to the hustings and the debates,” he said.
Mr Varadkar said he the “wounds caused by the recession are still very real” but he wants to sign a “social contract” with people.
“Everybody should have an equal opportunity to succeed.”
He said that Simon Coveney’s strong Fine Gael history would not put him at a disadvantage with the grassroots of the party who hold 25pc of the vote.
And he promised to reveal a series of policy papers over the coming days.
On Friday, Meath East TD Regina Doherty also declared her support for Mr Varadkar.
"Arising from An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s decision to step down after leading Fine Gael for 15 years through thick and thin we now have a vacancy. I will be supporting Leo Varadkar as the next Leader of Fine Gael," she said in a statement.
"For me he simply has all the qualities I want in a leader of Fine Gael and a Taoiseach of our country. For me he is the most impressive politician of my generation."
Fine Gael parliamentary party endorsements for leader
The Fine Gael parliamentary party makes up 65pc of the total electorate.
That makes each of the 73 members' votes worth 0.9pc of the total ballot.
Of the remaining electorate, 230 party councillors account for 10pc, while the remaining 25pc is rank and file members.
|Richard Bruton -Minister||Simon Harris - Minister|
|Frances Fitzgerald - Minister||Damien English - Minister|
|Michael Ring - Minister||Dara Murphy - Minister|
|Eoghan Murphy - Minister||David Stanton - Minister|
|Sean Kyne - Minister||Marcella Corcoran Kennedy - Minister|
|Joe McHugh - Minister||Kate O'Connell - TD|
|Helen McEntee - Minister||Maria Bailey - TD|
|Charlie Flanagan - Minister||Sean Barrett TD|
|Paul Kehoe -Minister||Hildegard Naughton - TD|
|Patrick O'Donovan - Minister||Peter Fitzpatrick - TD|
|Regina Doherty - Minister||Tim Lombard - Senator|
|Mary Mitchell O'Connor - Minister||Jerry Buttimer - Senator|
|Paschal Donohoe - Minister||Paudie Coffey - Senator|
|Heather Humphreys - Minister||James Reilly - Senator|
|Pat Breen - Minister||Colm Burke - Senator|
|Catherine Byrne - Minister||John O'Mahony - Senator|
|Andrew Doyle - Minister||Paul Coghlan - Senator|
|John Paul Phelan - TD||Gabrielle McFadden - Senator|
|Noel Rock - TD||Deirdre Clune - MEP|
|Tony McLoughlin - TD|
|Alan Farrell - TD|
|Michael D'Arcy - TD|
|Tom Neville - TD|
|Josepha Madigan - TD|
|Pat Deering - TD|
|Jim Daly - TD|
|Brendan Griffin - TD|
|Ciaran Cannon - TD|
|Colm Brophy - TD|
|Peter Burke - TD|
|Fergus O'Dowd - TD|
|John Deasy - TD|
|Joe Carey - TD|
|Neale Richmond - Senator|
|Catherine Noone - Senator|
|Paddy Burke - Senator|
|Martin Conway - Senator|
|Michelle Mulherin - Senator|
|Maura Hopkins - Senator|
|Ray Butler - Senator|
|Frank Feighan - Senator|
|Maria Byrne - Senator|
|Joe O'Reilly - Senator|
|Kieran O'Donnell - Senator|
|Brian Hayes - MEP|
|Enda Kenny - Outgoing Party Leader *||Martin Heydon - Party Chairman *|
|Michael Noonan - Minister||Michael Creed - Minister|
|Bernard Durkan - TD||Sean Kelly - MEP|
|Mairead McGuinness MEP|
* Outgoing leader Enda Kenny and party chairman Martin Heydon will not make an endorsement