Tuesday 24 October 2017

Leo Varadkar: 'I want to tell Mike Pence my story of coming out as gay'

Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Leo Varadkar. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Vice President-elect Mike Pence
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

SOCIAL Protection Minister Leo Varadkar would welcome the United States Vice-President elect Mike Pence to Ireland so he could tell him his story of coming out as gay.

Mr Pence, who will be Donald Trump’s number two in the White House, has said he would support the use of federal money to treat gay people “seeking to change their sexual behaviour”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced heavy criticism in recent days for inviting Mr Pence to Ireland during a 15-minute phonecall.

The incoming Vice-President’s grandfather Richard Cawley left Ireland in 1923 for Chicago, where he became a bus driver.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence
Vice President-elect Mike Pence

However, Mr Varadkar who was the first openly gay minister in Ireland, has defended the Government’s friendly approach on the controversial new American administration.

“I don’t like what Trump and Pence stand for, particularly on social issues. The right approach, I think, with anyone is to respect their religion, respect their values and engage with them. That’s how you win over minds and soften hearts,” he said.

“When it comes to Mick Pence, I’d like him to come to Ireland. I’d personally like to meet him. I’d love to tell him my story but more importantly I’d love to tell him the story of our country. The country of his ancestors and how we went from being one of the most conservative countries in the world [to where we are now]. That’s the way to deal with things.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Marian Finucane show, Mr Varadkar praised the cast of Broadway show ‘Hamilton’ who made international headlines after addressing Mr Pence from the stage on Friday night.

The Republican politician was booed by other audience members during the curtain call actor Brandon Victor Dixon read a statement from the stage on behalf of the cast.

“We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir.

“But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us, all of us. … We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women, of different colours, creeds, and orientations,” he said.

Mr Varadkar said that engagement like that was the right way to deal with the Trump/Pence administration.

“I wouldn’t like to see Ireland approaching what’s happened in America, the new administration, with disrespect.

“I don’t think they should be shunned. I don’t think they should be boycotted. I don’t think we should take away other people’s freedom of speech or right of tolerance.

“I think what we should do is engage with Pence and Trump but not sacrifice our values and our social freedoms,” he said.

Online Editors

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