Leo Varadkar, the health minister, has said the country is ready for its first gay taoiseach as he went public yesterday with his own sexuality.
However, the Fine Gael TD said he didn’t see it being himself, even though he has been tipped as a favourite to succeed Enda Kenny.
Becoming Ireland’s first openly gay minister, Mr Varadkar also revealed that he intends to leave politics by the time he reaches the age of 51.
In a candid interview about his private life on RTÉ radio, he said: “I am a gay man. It’s not a secret. It’s not something everyone would necessarily know but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before.”
His coming out was widely welcomed by political colleagues, public figures, and gay rights groups.
The 36-year-old Dublin West TD said he was comfortable now speaking about his sexuality.
He had decided to go public as he did not want people to think he had a hidden agenda about issues that will come across his desk, such as surrogacy legislation and the issue of gay men being banned from donating blood.
“What I want people to know is that whatever decisions are made on any issue, I’ll make them according to what I believe is in the public interest and of my own conscience,” he said. “I won’t be allowing my own background or my own sexual orientation to dictate the decisions that I make.”
Mr Varadkar said he had rang the Taoiseach about going public and Mr Kenny had said nothing would change, it was a private matter, and he was “really sound about it”.
Mr Kenny had even made a light-hearted reference to a gay bar, he said. “He asked me if I’d ‘ever been to the Panti bar’, which is the bar he visited in the last couple of weeks, and I actually said ‘no I haven’t’ so he said ‘there you go, Varadkar, I’m ahead of you already’.”
Mr Varadkar is the second Fine Gael TD to come out after Jerry Buttimer did so in 2012.
During a wide-ranging interview with RTÉ’s Miriam O’Callaghan, the qualified GP discussed his Indian heritage, growing up in Ireland, and his future after politics.
He said that he wanted the upcoming same-sex marriage referendum to pass so he could be an “equal citizen”.
Ireland was also probably ready for an openly gay Taoiseach, he said, but added: “I don’t think it’ll necessarily be me. It might be someone who isn’t even born yet.”
Mr Varadkar said he understood there was a real possibility he could lose his seat at the next election, but he had an “exit strategy”, and was not always going to remain in politics anyhow.
“I’d love to serve another term, but even after another term I’ll be 41 and I don’t see myself in politics at 51,” he said. “I definitely want to do other things.”
Gay and Lesbian Equality Network chairman Kieran Rose said: “We salute the courage of the minister in talking openly about being a gay man. His courage will inspire many others who would like to be open about who they are”
I suspect Leo's sexuality will be a topic of conversation for a day or two and then we'll move on. As it should be.— Dr Panti Bliss-Cabrera (@PantiBliss) January 18, 2015
Leo,it's no big deal.Maith thú.
@campaignforleo— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) January 18, 2015
Even in 2015 it's hard to come out. Especially on national radio. Well done Leo. #Proud of you @campaignforleo— Lucinda Creighton (@LCreighton) January 18, 2015
Absolutely brilliant interview by Leo Varadkar with Miriam O'callaghan On RTE .Tells nation he is gay . Go Leo!— Shane Ross (@Shane_RossTD) January 18, 2015
Visibility always brings light and hope to those suffering in darkness. Wonderful gesture of kindness by @campaignforleo on @MiriamOCal— Conor Cusack (@Conor14Cusack) January 18, 2015
Very proud of my colleague @campaignforleo interview with @MiriamOCal this morning. Still hoping for a day being "gay" is a non issue— John Lyons (@JohnLyons77) January 18, 2015
@campaignforleo @MiriamOCal v powerful interview. V proud of Leo. Glad I'm not the only gay in the village -:)— Jerry Buttimer (@jerrybuttimer) January 18, 2015
Q : as a percentage is this the most openly gay cabinet in Europe?— brian lucey (@brianmlucey) January 18, 2015
No matter what anyone thinks a senior minister coming out in this country is a big deal! Hugely positive & shouldn't be taken for granted.— Pio Fenton (@Piofenton) January 18, 2015
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