Friday 22 February 2019

Leo Varadkar: 'I am a gay man. It's not a secret'

Independent.ie Newsdesk & Daniel McConnell

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he "is gay" and says it is no secret.

Mr Varadkar, who turns 36 today, told RTE Radio One's 'Sunday with Miriam' programme that he wanted to be honest about his situation and he wanted to be "an equal citizen in his own country".

Leo Varadkar with RTE broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan
Leo Varadkar with RTE broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan
18/01/2015. Pictured is Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in the RTE radio studios where he told Miriam O'Callaghan he was a "gay man" and it was "no secret". Photo: El Keegan
Health Minister Leo Varadkar

He told listeners that while he wanted to keep his private life under wraps, he didn't want people to feel he was hiding anything and was being "fullly honest" with them.

"I am a gay man. It's not a secret.

"I hope it's not a big deal for anyone else - it shouldn't be," he added.

READ MORE: Full transcript of Leo Varadkar’s interview with Miriam O’Callaghan 

18/01/2015. Pictured is Minister for Health Leo Varadkar with Miriam O'Callaghan leaving RTE studios where he told Miriam O'Callaghan he was a
18/01/2015. Pictured is Minister for Health Leo Varadkar with Miriam O'Callaghan leaving RTE studios where he told Miriam O'Callaghan he was a "gay man" and it was "no secret". Photo: El Keegan
18/01/2015. Pictured is Minister for Health Leo Varadkar in the RTE radio studios where he told Miriam O'Callaghan he was a "gay man" and it was "no secret". Photo: El Keegan
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar leaving RTE Radio studios this morning after his interview with Miriam O'Callaghan. Pic: El Keegan

He added that he wanted to reassure people his sexual orientation would not dictate any policies he might make.

And with the marriage referendum coming, Mr Varadkar said he "wanted to be honest".

"I don't want to be accused of having a hidden agenda or not being fully honest with with them," he said.

Read more here: 'Fair play Leo' – Minister Varadkar widely praised for public announcement over sexuality 

The West Dublin TD said he believes his former Fine Gael party colleague and friend Lucinda Creighton was aware he was gay.

His mother, father, family and close friends were aware he was gay, and he contacted them to tell them he was doing the interview. They were fully supportive, he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was also aware and gave his support to his minister ahead of his interview with Miriam O'Callaghan this morning.

"He deserved a heads up [about the radio interview]," the minister told Miriam, adding he rang the Taoiseach over the weekend.

"He said it was my private life, it's a private issue, and none of this was his concern," Varadkar told Miriam.

"He actually asked me if I had ever been to the PantiBar, and I told him 'no I haven't' and he said 'there you go Varadkar, I'm ahead of you already'," he laughed. Mr Kenny visited PantiBar recently along with fellow TDs and met with owner and Miss Panti Rori O'Neill.

Read more here: Lise Hand: Leo Varadkar wanted to be upfront about his sexuality so he could never be accused of having a 'hidden agenda'  

The minister said Mr Kenny knew he was gay prior to the interview.

"He did know - just from the conversation, I didn't even need to say it.

"It was awkward and just a little bit embarrassing. I rang him and told him I needed to talk to him about a personal issue. He really was absolutely fine about it. He was really sound about it."

The minister also told Miriam he was not in a relationship at present, but would like to have one in the future. "I ‘d like to be, but I’ll be keeping that all private," he said.

Mr Varadkar, who has been touted in many quarters as a future taoiseach, said he believes Ireland is ready for an openly gay taoiseach. However he said it is unlikely to be him, as he is solely concentrating on his role as minister for health.

Of his decision to reveal his sexuality, the politician said he was worried people might treat him different.

“The only worry I have is that people see me differently or treat me differently.

“I hope they don’t, I am still the same person. To me it is not a big deal, I hope it is not a big deal for people,” he said.

“There are people a lot braver than me, but I wanted to do it. I suppose I felt as a public figure I should say it.”

“I want the next generation to feel that they don’t have to do an interview like this,” he added.

Read more here: Leo Varadkar: 'I was seven when I told my mum's friends I wanted to be minister for health. Needless to say, my mother was mortified' 

Mr Varadkar added that finding a the right time to make the announcement is something he has been thinking of doing over the past six months. “It was difficult because in politics people always try to find a motive so it was difficult,” he said.

“It’s not something that defines me. It is part of my character.”

Earlier in the interview, the minister said he “didn’t want anyone thinking I have a hidden agenda, I always tried to be honest with people.”

“I’d like to be an equal citizen in my country of which I am a minister because at the moment I am not.”

Asked why he took the decision to make the announcement on his 36th birthday, Mr Varadkar said he was doing it “in part personal reasons. I’m comfortable talking about it. It is not a big deal for me.”

He said he was revealing it also because of political considerations.

He said because of important decisions coming up on surrogacy and on whether “we lift the ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood.”

“I want people to know,” he added.

He said his mother was concerned that he might get beaten up or lose his seat, but she ultimately said she wanted him to be happy.

He said his father, who comes from a conservative background in India, said it was a “little bit difficult” but it has been fine since.

“Some people get rejected by their families, but I have been very lucky,” he said.

He said he realised he was gay one or two years ago.

Mr Varadkar added that he was a little worried about the reaction he is likely to get online.

“I’d like to get to the place where the next generation of politicians don’t have to do interviews like this,” he said.

He said he fears losing his seat as Dublin West is a tough constituency for Fine Gael.

“I have my exit strategy, either go back to college or study abroad, or doing something medical and political abroad,” he said.

“I don’t see myself in politics at 51, I definitely want to do something else,” he said.

“Whatever I do next it will be different, not politics,” he said.

Asked about his straight talking manner,which often gets him into trouble, Mr Varadkar said he does not regret his style.

“Politicians should trust people with the truth. Very often we don’t do that. We have an educated and cynical electorate. I decided early on to be honest and trust people with the truth. I am also a crap liar,” he said.

More to follow

Read more here: Daniel McConnell: Leo Varadkar announcement is watershed moment in Irish politics 

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