Leo Varadkar says fight to change society must continue

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that Ireland and the US have further to go in building countries that reflect all men and women in society.

The Taoiseach was speaking at the Ireland Funds dinner in the National Building Museum, Washington DC, in a night to celebrate visionary women.

Mr Varadkar is in the US capital as part of his St Patrick’s tour.

“In recent years we have smashed stereotypes in both our countries, the old image frozen in time of what a leader is supposed to look like in politics, in business, in professions and in sport has been slowly chipped (away) and at long last confined to the dustbin of history,” he said.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) with Congressman Richard Neal (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (right) with Congressman Richard Neal (Brian Lawless/PA)

“In its place we hold up a mirror that more closely reflects women and men in our societies.

“People who look like you and me.

“We still have further to go.

“Sometimes it requires defiance and sometimes acts of imagination.

“I believe we must first imagine the kind of society that we want to live in and then work to achieve it.

“We can’t rely on others to change the status quo, we have to do that for ourselves.”

At last night’s dinner, Chairman of The Ireland Funds John Fitzpatrick said that women in the US and Ireland have prominent roles in business, arts and government.

The event recognised four women including United States senator Jeanne Shaheen, Tyrone native Sarah Friar, the chief executive of social networking service Nextdoor, Norah O’Donnell, the co-host of CBS’s This Morning, and Gail Slater, who is special adviser to Donald Trump.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: “Thankfully women now occupy prominent roles in business, arts and in government in both the United States and in Ireland, north and south.

“Ireland is very fortunate to have two extraordinary women serve as presidents, which were Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the US (Brian Lawless/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar during his visit to the US (Brian Lawless/PA)

“All our incredible honourees this evening are women who are outstanding visionary leaders.

“Women have come a long way in both the US and Ireland, but there is still a long way to go.”

The Ireland Funds executive director Caitriona Fottrell paid tribute to those who support the philanthropic organisation.

She said: “What’s really exciting on a night that celebrates visionary women is how many of the organisations, going right back to very beginning when we were funding tiny communities groups in Northern Ireland right up to some of the largest and creative organisations we support today, how many of those organisations have been led by visionary women, so this is a theme.

“We are excited and energised by the transformation those organisations are bringing about and yet every year even better ones come forward.”

- Press Association

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