Tuesday 25 October 2016

'I've had good and bad dates, but no regrets about coming out' - Health Minister Varadkar

Minister speaks about his personal life alongside his ambition to be leader of the Fine Gael party

Published 25/09/2015 | 23:52

Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar
Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said he has had 'good and bad dates' since his tell-all interview in January, but he has no regrets for coming out publicly.

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In a frank appearance on the Late Late Show, the minister spoke about his personal life alongside his ambition to be leader of the Fine Gael party.

The minister admitted he has still not listened back to the Miriam O'Callaghan radio interview in which he came out publicly at the beginning of the year, and said he would still consider himself a 'relatively private person'.

"I find it hard to talk about it. I felt I had to come out really because the referendum is coming up," Varadkar said. 

"I didn't think I could go around campaigning as it if was just another piece of legislation or campaign.

"Rumours were going around. It wasn't a total secret, people would have known, like friends and family.

"People may have seen me out around in town, there were quite a few press queries too.

"But I'm thankful nobody broke the story in Ireland like that maybe would have happened in the UK."

Varadkar said he has realised since that his obsession with his medical studies and work was his 'dealing mechanism' growing up as a gay man.

"I never had a formal relationship. I suppose what I would have done was been very obsessed with work, as a medical student, then a doctor and then a politician," he said.

"Looking back, it was part of my dealing mechanism.

"In the 1990s, it was still something unusual, still something that was stigmatised.

"When I first came out, I had all these anxieties like can I still go to the gym, what will the guy in Spar say.

"The truth is nobody cares that much, they're a little bit curious initially and then that's it.

"What was liberating was telling everyone, that took away the anxieties and the fears.

"I have no regrets whatsoever."

The now-famous Sunday morning interview hit international headlines, something Varadkar said he was surprised by.

"The reaction was great and something I was grateful for," he said.

"I was a bit surprised it became an international story, I appeared on Saturday Night Live in America and a friend text me to say I was in the newspaper in Singapore.

"I think the perception of Ireland overseas was much more conservative [than what I thought].

"Since I came out publicly, it's opened up my life a lot," he continued.

"In between work, it does mean I can go on dates. Some are good and some are bad.

"I've been dating the same person now for maybe two months but it's early days."

Speaking about the upcoming election, Varadkar said he had no doubt but Enda Kenny will continue to lead the Fine Gael party.

Asked about the timing of the General Election and if would consider the position in the future, he replied:

"I don't know how well you know Enda Kenny but he's a powerful campaigner, he's a weapon. And that's a compliment," he said.

"He is our leader and the most recent opinion poll shows he's up there ahead of the others.

"Irish people have made some pretty enormous sacrifices in the last couple of years to get us back to this point with people back at work and the economy being strong again, but the recovery is fragile.

"I believe the election will be in the spring," he continued.

"I haven't ordered my posters yet. But I will order my posters soon just in case," he joked.

He added: "In 2021, if I am still in the Dail and if I don't crash and burn by then of course I'd be interested [in going for leader].

"Politics is very unpredictable.

"What I concentrate on is the job I have at hand which is an enormous job.

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