Wednesday 23 October 2019

'I hope my actions can inspire LGBT youth' - Varadkar

Warm welcome: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett (far right) with the US Vice President Mike Pence and his sister Anne Pence Poynter. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Warm welcome: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett (far right) with the US Vice President Mike Pence and his sister Anne Pence Poynter. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he hopes he has inspired young LGBT people by bringing his partner to high-profile functions during his St Patrick's Day visit to the US.

Cardiologist Matt Barrett accompanied Mr Varadkar to the shamrock ceremony in the White House, with First Lady Melania Trump posting pictures on social media of herself and President Donald Trump welcoming them there.

But perhaps the highlight of the trip was the Irish couple's attendance at a breakfast hosted by Christian conservative Vice-President Mike Pence.

The Taoiseach delivered a carefully crafted speech advocating for LGBT rights in the presence of Mr Pence, who has been criticised in the past for his views.

In his speech, he said as leader of his country he was "judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation or my skin tone or my gender or religious beliefs".

"And I don't believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible," he said.

"It is found in every country where freedom and liberty are cherished. We are, after all, all God's children."

The visit was hailed on social media by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, one of the most high-profile LGBT figures in the US.

Mr Varadkar said he hoped his visit accompanied by his partner would inspire young people in the LGBT community and send a message to countries around the world that still restrict gay rights.

He spoke of the warm welcome offered by Mr Pence and his family, and said: "Part of leadership is really speaking to people in a respectful way and setting an example.

"I hope that any actions I do around equality for any LGBT members of society, and for women as well, gives encouragement to young gay people and young women to believe that anything in life is possible."

He also said: "Certain individual rights and liberties are universal and they belong to each of us as human beings, regardless of where we live or what government we live under or what religion or culture we have, and I would like to see those values spread around the world."

Irish Independent

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