Leo Varadkar says sexuality should not be an issue in judging politicians
Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that he is not judged by his sexual orientation but by his political actions.
Mr Varadkar made the comments alongside his partner during a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence.
The Taoiseach and Dr Matt Barrett met Mr Pence and his sister Anne at the vice-president’s residence in Washington DC on Thursday morning.
Mr Varadkar said that while growing up in Ireland he was fascinated by American politics.
“In many ways it helped to inspire me to believe in the power of politics to do good because ultimately that is what politics is all about,” he said.
“It helped inspire me to run for office, to become involved in making laws and driving change.
“But I also knew at the time that I lived in a country where, if I tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws, but today that is all changed.
“I stand here leader of my country, flawed and human but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”
Mr Varadkar added: “I don’t believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible.
“It’s found in every country were freedom and liberty are cherished.
“We are, after all, all God’s children.
“And that’s true of the United States as well, the land of hope, brave and free.”
Mr Pence, who describes himself as a Christian and a conservative, extended an invitation to the couple during a meeting with Mr Varadkar last year.
In a tweet, Mr Varadkar said: “Vice President Mike Pence invited me and Matt to his home at the Naval Observatory this morning.
“It’s great to be back here for a really warm reception.”
Mr Varadkar is Ireland’s first openly gay leader and one of very few openly gay national leaders in the world.
The meeting comes on the second day of Mr Varadkar’s St Patrick’s Day tour in the US capital.
Later Mr Varadkar will meet US president Donald Trump at the White House for the traditional St Patrick’s Day shamrock ceremony.
Mr Pence said that the US stands with Ireland as the UK continues to work through Brexit issues.
Addressing the breakfast meeting he said: “The Irish have given so much to America and today the partnership between our two countries, as the Taoiseach knows, has never been stronger.
“The United States also stands with the Irish Republic as the United Kingdom continues to work through the issues of Brexit and we look forward to the day when we can even begin talks about expanding trade, a new trade agreement to grow our two economies and prosper both of our peoples.
“It’s an honour to be with you here today.”
Mr Pence also confirmed he is planning a trip to visit Ireland.
He said he is arranging a visit to the country with his mother, Nancy.
“I am happy to report to the Taoiseach that I have spoken to mom, first generation Irish-American and mother-of-nine, and she has confirmed that she will travel with us to Ireland and we are making plans to return to my grandfather’s homestead as we speak,” Mr Pence said.
Mr Varadkar said: “I really hope you will be able to accept my invitation to Ireland very soon and I can guarantee you a very warm welcome is waiting for you, especially in Co Sligo and Co Clare from where your forebears come.
“And you absolutely must bring your mother.”