Tuesday 25 June 2019

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'

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Leo Varadkar knew since early childhood he wanted to enter politics - announcing to his mother's friends he would be minister for health at the tender age of seven.

In his RTE Radio One interview with Miriam O'Callaghan earlier today, where he told listeners "I'm a gay man", the politician provided some insight into his world.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar leaving RTE Radio studios this morning after his interview with Miriam O'Callaghan Pic: El Keegan
Minister for Health Leo Varadkar leaving RTE Radio studios this morning after his interview with Miriam O'Callaghan Pic: 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

He told Miriam he is only now giving time to his personal life - something he didn't for many years as he put his career first.

Earlier in the interview, the politician said he had no special plans to celebrate his birthday which is today, and would probably call around to his older sister Sophie.

He also said he had no regrets about taking on the role of Minister for Health, once famously described by former Taoiseach Brian Cowen as 'Angola'.

"There is a big issue cum crisis every week.

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
Leo Varadkar
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
Leo Varadkar has come out as gay ahead of the referendum on gay marriage

"I don't regret it at all.

"I regret it's at the end of the term of government. The changes you make don't necessarily show for a year or two," he added.

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

 

Speaking about the recent trolley crisis, which erupted while he was on holidays in Miami earlier this month, he explained he was in daily contact with HSE boss Tony O'Brien.

"I was away for a full three days.

"The trolley numbers spiked on the second day and then I came back. But with modern technology you are always in touch."

Speaking about his background, the Health minister explained how his mum was a nurse originally from Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

She moved to England at the age of 18 where she trained as a nurse.

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

His father was from Mumbai, and the first in his family to go to university.

He moved to England to work there "with fifty pounds in his pocket and the shirt on his back".

His parents met in Slough and married.

They became parents to eldest daughter Sophie and moved to India for a spell.

They then moved back to Ireland in 1973 when Leo's father was offered a position in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

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'  

Several years later, he moved to Harcourt Street hospital.

The couple welcomed their son Leo in 1979.

His father subsequently became a GP, and his mother the practice manager.

The practice was set up in their Castleknock home, and the family living room turned into a waiting room for patients.

The minister told Miriam that he had much to thank his parents for when it came to his start in politics - his parents were so well known and respected in the community that it gave him recognition.

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

Leo attended a Church of Ireland fee-paying secondary school in Palmerstown in Dublin - where RTE star Kathryn Thomas was a classmate.

But before he went there, the young boy knew he wanted to enter politics.

At the age of seven, "I told my mother's friends I wanted to be minister for health. She was mortified, needless to say", he told Miriam.

"I don't know why - but I've had an interest and passion for politics.

"I don't know [where it comes from] - neither of my parents are involved in politics or anything like that," he added.

Miriam also asked if Leo had some "unwanted attention" growing up as his father was from India.

"The fact that my dad was a local GP really helped in that sense, but people would and still do say some funny things to you.

"Like where you from originally? Do you ever go back to India?

"I mean I was born in the Rotunda. I'm a northsider," he added.

However, he did say that his heritage does attract some unwanted attention on Twitter and other social media, although he doesn't pay any attention to those.

One of the busiest times in his life was when he was sitting as a member of Fingal County Council while a junior doctor which he described as his "craziest years". He then trained to be a GP.

Coming to his personal life, he agreed with Miriam when she said he hadn't "settled down yet".

"I suppose I've always put the career and job in politics and all that first.

"I have a good social life. I probably didn't given time to my personal life until the last couple of years."

Life in the last few years has been a whirlwind of weddings and christenings, he explained.

He also reiterated that he was a private person who liked to keep his private life to himself.

"My friends and family are out of bounds. I went into politics and they didn't," he said.

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