Thursday 19 April 2018

Pence invitation for Matt and I to visit 'a very nice gesture', says Varadkar

The socially conservative VP has been criticised for his stance on marriage equality

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is greeted by US Vice-President Mike Pence and wife Karen at a breakfast event at the Vice-President's Residence in Washington DC, USA. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is greeted by US Vice-President Mike Pence and wife Karen at a breakfast event at the Vice-President's Residence in Washington DC, USA. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Jason O'Brien

Jason O'Brien

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar has said he did speak "privately" to American Vice President Mike Pence around the issues of equality and LGBT rights.

While he made no public remarks on the issues during a breakfast with Mr Pence and his wife on Friday morning, Mr Varadkar said he spoke to both about equality for women and LGBT rights both in Ireland and America.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses Vice President Mike Pence during his speech at the St Patrick's Day breakfast (picture provided by the Taoiseach's office)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar addresses Vice President Mike Pence during his speech at the St Patrick's Day breakfast (picture provided by the Taoiseach's office)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his speech at the St Patrick's Day breakfast of Vice President Mike Pence (picture provided by the Taoiseach's office)

"They were very well briefed," he said. "They knew about my personal story. They knew my partner is living in Chicago, and they said that both Matt and I would be very welcome to visit there in the future. It was a very nice gesture."

The Taoiseach's partner, Matt Barrett, is a cardiologist in Chicago, and is expected to join Mr Varadkar in New York this weekend. The Taoiseach will march in the city's St Patrick's Day parade.

He was asked if he would bring Mr Barrett to the Vice President's breakfast next year.

"There are so many ifs and maybes there," he said.

"First of all I have to survive another year in my office. Secondly Matt's not terribly keen to attend public functions," the Taoiseach said.

Mr Pence also confirmed that he had been invited to Ireland by the Taoiseach and said the Pence family would be visiting in the coming years.

The media was prohibited from attending the breakfast in a break with long-standing tradition - at the request of the socially-conservative Mr Pence's office.

Mr Varadkar is one of very few openly gay world leaders, and had repeatedly said he would talk with Mr Pence about various social issues.

Traditionally, the annual meeting can be recorded and reported on for the public.

Mr Pence is a social conservative politician who has been criticised for his stance on LGBT rights.

Mr Varadkar has said he would have preferred the meeting to be held in public.

However, he added that the private meeting may allow the two politicians have a “frank conversation”.

Sources in the Vice President’s Office said Mr Pence has held his recent meetings with world leaders behind closed doors.

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