Monday 22 January 2018

Leo Varadkar opens up about bridging the miles with FaceTime as his boyfriend Matt moves to the US

AN OCEAN APART: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with partner Dr Matt Barrett (left) at the Pride event in Dublin City centre. The pair are living apart while Dr Barrett undertakes a fellowship in Chicago for a year. Photo: Gerry Mooney
AN OCEAN APART: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar pictured with partner Dr Matt Barrett (left) at the Pride event in Dublin City centre. The pair are living apart while Dr Barrett undertakes a fellowship in Chicago for a year. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

Leo Varadkar has spoken publicly for the first time about the complicated nature of his long-distance relationship with partner Dr Matthew Barrett, who is now working in America.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent from Chicago where he travelled to join Matt for a holiday last week, the Taoiseach said: "It's going OK. We are both busy with new jobs. So in some ways, it's a good time to be apart for a bit.

"We keep in touch through FaceTime and will try to meet up in Ireland or the US every couple of months," added Leo, who flew to Canada from Chicago yesterday on an official visit.

Mr Varadkar and Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau will be discussing Canada and European Trade agreements.

"Matt's gone for a year since July 1. He finished his specialist cardiology training in Ireland, so he needs some international experience."

It is understood that Dr Barrett had deferred the offer of a fellowship in Chicago by a year, but this type of advanced experience is a formal requirement in his profession.

Varadkar and Trudeau pose with a bride and groom at the Montreal Pride parade in Montreal
Varadkar and Trudeau pose with a bride and groom at the Montreal Pride parade in Montreal
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) walks with his Irish counterpart Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (L) during the Montreal Pride parade in Montreal, Canada August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar joins in the Pride march through Montreal with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Photo: Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) walks with his Irish counterpart Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (C) and his partner Dr. Matthew Barrett during the Montreal Pride parade in Montreal, Canada August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Leo Varadkar addresses an Enterprise Ireland event in Toronto
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and his Irish counterpart Taoiseach Leo Varadkar participate in a welcoming ceremony at the Royal Highland Regiment Armoury in Montreal, Quebec Canada August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomes Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the Royal Highland Regiment Armoury in Montrea
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participate in a welcoming ceremony at the Royal Highland Regiment Armoury in Montreal
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (R) shakes hands with his Irish counterpart Taoiseach Leo Varadkar prior to a bilateral meeting in Montreal, Quebec Canada August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi

He has worked in the cardiology department at St Vincent's Hospital in Dublin, where he was highly regarded for his work as a specialist registrar.

As a Trinity College-qualified doctor, Mr Varadkar is well aware of the arduous work required to reach the top tiers in medicine.

But Dr Barrett continuing his medical education on a fellowship 3,600 miles away in the Windy City, while Leo runs the nation from his office in Upper Merrion Square, might perhaps in a way suit the very private political leader that is Leo Varadkar.

It mightn't suit his heart, but it will suit his head, especially if there is a general election at some point in the next 12 months.

Of course, Dr Barrett going to America for a year to further his medical career at this time has absolutely nothing to do with the complex political intricacies of Leo's big job.

Be that as it may, the great expanse of the Atlantic Ocean dividing them cannot but continue Leo -and Matt's - policy of keeping their relationship out of the spotlight.

Indeed, as Leo told the Sunday Independent before he beat Simon Coveney for the leadership of Fine Gael, becoming Fine Gael leader and then Taoiseach would not mean he would be bringing Matt to State occasions like the previous Taoiseach Enda Kenny brought Fionnuala to meet world leaders.

"No. That wouldn't be my plan," Leo said.

"First of all, we're not married.

"We've only been going out for two years, and, secondly, while that has been the tradition in politics, it doesn't necessarily have to be.

"Take Angela Merkel. She is on her third term at the moment. She has been Chancellor for nearly 15 years. She has a husband [Joachim Sauer] but he has a job.

"He has only ever attended one occasion with her because he has his own career.

"I think that would be part of the generational shift in politics, because traditionally you had a male leader, a wife who had given up her job. We are now moving into an era across the world where men and couples have their own careers."

Leo is in Dublin saving Ireland - "An island at the centre of the world", as he told Time magazine in July - and Matt in Chicago saving lives.

Read More: 'Matt makes me a better man' - Leo Varadkar's most revealing interview

Sunday Independent

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