Ireland is ready for a gay taoiseach, according to an Irish Examiner/ICMSA national opinion poll of farmers.
In the survey of farming households, 45% of respondents said the country was now ready for its first gay taoiseach, with 20% saying they are strongly in favour. However, more than one in three (36%) strongly disagreed with the statement.
The poll appears to indicate a growing liberal view towards social issues among the farming community, and especially among younger farmers — although the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) said the result should not come as a surprise.
It could also prove a boost for current Health Minister Leo Varadkar were he to seek the leadership of Fine Gael in the future.
Mr Varadkar is seen as one of the frontrunners in any future leadership contest in the party.
Fine Gael is still the most popular political party among rural voters, according to another of today’s poll findings, and any successor to Taoiseach Enda Kenny would need to ensure continued support from farmers.
Support for the idea of a gay taoiseach is most pronounced among tillage farmers, at 63%, and among those aged 34 and under, at 60%.
Just 12% of those aged 65 and over believe Ireland is ready for a gay taoiseach, and those with a farm-only income, at 39%, are less supportive of the idea than those respondents who also have an income away from the farm (50%).
Slightly more men believe Ireland is ready for a gay Taoiseach, at 46%, than the 43% of women respondents who share the same view.
Mass attendance also appears to have a bearing on people’s view on the issue.
The poll shows that while 45% of all farmers surveyed believe Ireland is ready for a gay taoiseach, the comparable figure among regular Mass-goers is 33%.
Of those that attend Mass on a weekly basis, 34% strongly disagree with the statement that the country is ready for a gay taoiseach, as opposed to 22% of all farmers surveyed.
However, any likely candidates to be the next leader of Fine Gael may need to wait. Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland from the party’s recent think-in in Adare, Mr Kenny said he expects to lead Fine Gael throughout the full term of the next Dáil if returned to government.
ICMSA president John Comer said people should not be surprised that 45% of respondents said Ireland was ready for a gay taoiseach, as “farm families cover the exact same spectrum as every other occupational demographic” and so the poll result does not necessarily signal any kind of “sea change”.
“Farmers are a part of Irish society, not apart from Irish society, and we undergo precisely the same changes and shifts in attitudes that the wider population does,” Mr Comer said.
“Personally, I don’t think that anyone’s sexuality defines them in the sense that it’s the beginning and end of who they are. So I don’t think that we’re talking about ‘a gay taoiseach’ so much as we’re talking about ‘a taoiseach who happens to be gay’.
“There is as well in this finding the fact that the politician implicitly referred to is regarded as honest and forthright in the way he dealt with his aspect of his life and was widely praised for the way he referenced it — rightly so, in my opinion.”
As well as Mr Varadkar, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and Justice Minister Francis Fitzgerald are seen as the main contenders for the leadership of Fine Gael.
At the weekend, Ms Fitzgerald expressed her willingness to contest the leadership should a vacancy arise.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved