Thursday 16 August 2018

Taoiseach fails to raise LGBT rights with conservative Texas Governor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Texas Governor Greg Abbott (Niall Carson/PA)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar did not raise LGBT rights during an official meeting with staunchly conservative Texas Governor Greg Abbott when they met in Austin today.

Mr Varadkar, one of very few openly gay world leaders, admitted he did not use the meeting in the Governor’s Mansion to change Mr Abbott’s view on gay and lesbian rights.

Asked if he discussed LGBT rights with the Governor, the Taoiseach said: “No we didn't actually - really the focus of the conversation was on economics, on trade links and about migration as well actually.”

Pushed on why he did not arise the issue, Mr Varadkar said he invited Mr Abbot to Ireland and said he might discuss it with him then should the governor take up the invitation.  During their meeting, Mr Abbot, whose wife Cecilia is of Irish extraction, said he would like to visit Ireland in the future.

Mr Abbott is an ardent supporter of US President Donald Trump and recently received the backing of the Republican Party to run for second term.

The Governor is a highly conservative politician who introduced laws last year which it has been claimed allow faith based welfare agencies discriminate against the community LGBT.

He also fought against marriage equality rights which were given to same-sex couples following a US Supreme Court ruling.

And he sought to introduce the controversial ‘Bathroom Bill’ which would prevent transgender people using public toilets aligned with their chosen identity.

Later in today, the Taoiseach travelled to the South by South West (SxSW) festival where he was interviewed by chief executive of Texas Tribune  Evan Smith.

Tomorrow, he will travel to Oklahoma where he will meet the Choctaw Nation and pay tribute to the tribe for their relief efforts during the Great Famine.

The Choctaw people collected around $170 which is the equivalent of several thousand dollars today, for famine relief in Ireland.

“It is something I am really looking forward to. I have been interested and captivated by the story of he Choctaws since I first heard about it,” Mr Varadkar said.

“These are native Americans who were expelled from their lands in Mississippi and Alabama and walked the Trail of Tears to their new home on the reservation in Oklahoma, losing a quarter of their population on the way through starvation and exhaustion,” he added.

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