Taoiseach meets Terminator on Texas visit

It was a case of “I’ll be back” when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met the Terminator in Texas.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar meets Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Hilton Hotel in Austin, Texas.

Both Leo Varadkar and Arnold Schwarzenegger were speakers at the South by South West (SXSW) festival in Austin yesterday and bumped into each other at the event.

However, before he spoke at the festival, Mr Varadkar met the actor and former Governor of California and told Mr Schwarzenegger: “I love your work, by the way.”

Mr Varadkar explained that he was in Austin as part of his St Patrick’s Day trip to the US.

“I just got here last night so I am here for the week, based in the States, you know, St Patrick’s Day is coming up,” he said.

“The question is, are you coming to Santa Monica?” asked Mr Schwarzenegger.

While the Taoiseach said he had been to Santa Monica “many times”, adding that he “loves the beach”, he told the actor he would not be making a visit this time, to which Mr Schwarzenegger said: “You are always welcome, it’s good to see you.”

Earlier in the day, Mr Varadkar met with Texas governor Greg Abbott but did not raise the issue of LGBT rights with him.

However, he said he had invited Mr Abbott to Ireland and suggested he might raise this issue if the Republican governor were to visit.

Last year, Mr Abbott signed a law that lets adoption or foster care agencies refuse to place children with certain prospective parents, including same-sex couples, if the provider feels it conflicts with their “sincerely held religious beliefs”.

Critics said the bill to protect the religious rights of faith-based groups in state child welfare programmes could be used to discriminate against LGBT families in adoptions.

Mr Abbott has also sought to ban transgender people from using bathrooms that reflect their identity.

During their meeting, Mr Abbott introduced the Taoiseach to his wife Cecilia, who has Irish ancestry.

Mr Varadkar will travel to Oklahoma today, where he will officially thank the Choctaw Native Americans who sent money to Ireland during the Great Famine.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Varadkar said:

I have been interested and captivated by the story of the Choctaws since I first heard about it. 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.

“They were only 10 or 15 years in their new home in Oklahoma when they heard about what was happening in Ireland, and even though there was no blood connection between the Choctaw and the Irish, and even though some of the people who expelled them were Irish, they still felt a kindred connection with us, not through a blood connection, but through a connection of shared experience.”

Mr Varadkar is also due to meet Governor of Oklahoma and strong Trump ally, Mary Fallon, today.

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