Minister for Health congratulated for publicly coming out

Leo Varadkar becomes the first cabinet Minister in Ireland to be openly gay

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar with  with Miriam O’Callaghan in RTÉ Radio studios on Sunday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar with with Miriam O’Callaghan in RTÉ Radio studios on Sunday. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) saluted the courage of the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar on Sunday after he talked publicly for the first time about being a gay man and the first cabinet Minister in Ireland to be openly gay.

“I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before,” he told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 on Sunday.

“His courage will inspire many others who would like to be open about who they are” said Kieran Rose, GLEN Chair.

“Whether you are a cabinet minister or a young gay person doing your Leaving Certificate, it takes courage to talk openly about who you are. Minister Varadkar talking openly about being gay will be a very important source of support for LGBT people and for their parents and families” said Rose.

Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer tweeted that he very proud of him saying he was glad he wasn’t “the only gay in the village”.

He told The Irish Tmes it was “an immensely proud day’’ when a member of the Cabinet revealed he was gay in an RTÉ Radio interview.

“While Leo Varadkar will not be defined by his sexuality , it is a very positive development,’’ he said. “It is a huge testimony to where we have come as a society.’’

Mr Buttimer revealed he was gay in an interview with the Irish Examiner two years ago.

He said Mr Varadkar’s interview would help people who were unsure about whether they should talk about their sexuality and would destigmatise the issue. “We now have leadership in areas such as politics, music and sport,’’ he added.

Mr Buttimer said he received a “really positive’’ reaction when he revealed he was gay. “On a canvass at the weekend, a voter told me he was proud of what I had done and that he would vote for me,’’ he added.

Listen: Leo Varadkar on Sunday with Miriam on RTÉ Radio 1

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan told The Irish Times that Mr Varadkar’s interview was very courageous.

“Personal decisions of this nature can be difficult and, as a Cabinet colleague and friend, I wish him all the best,’’ he added.

Mr Varadkar’s former colleague Lucinda Creighton tweeted that she was very proud of him. “Even in 2015 it’s hard to come out. Especially on national radio. Well done Leo!”

Independent TD Shane Ross tweeted that it was an “absolutely brilliant interview” while the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald wished him a happy birthday and said it was a great interview.

Panti Bliss also took to Twitter to congratulate the Minister while comedian Dara Ó Briain tweeted “Oh, and fair play Leo Varadkar, although the nicest thing is, it hardly seems to be causing any storm.”

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney tweeted “Well done Leo. Honest and up front as always”.

Labour TD John Lyons tweeted: “Very proud of my colleague @campaignforleo interview with @MiriamOCal this morning. Still hoping for a day being “gay” is a non issue.”

Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher, who was clashed repeatedly in the Dáil on policy issues with Mr Varadkar, said the Minister had made a brave personal decision to reveal he was gay.

“He is a high-profile individual and his interview ill encourage a broad open debate on the issue,’’ he added.

“A decision like that can sometimes be difficult for family and friends.’’

Mr Kelleher told The Irish Times Mr Varadkar’s interview would help remove any stigma that might still attach to the issue.

“Obviously, I will continue to hold him to account as Minister for Health, but I wish him well on a personal level,’’ he added.

Iona Institute director David Quinn said Mr Varadkar’s decision to reveal he was gay was essentially a matter for himself and did not change the argument against the referendum on same-sex marriage.

The institute promotes the place of marriage and religion in society.

Mr Quinn said the definition of marriage could not be changed without profoundly altering the rights of children.

“If that definition was changed, it would be impossible to have laws on adoption, fostering, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), giving preference to motherhood and fatherhood,’’ he added.

In a statement, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said he commended Mr Varadkar for coming out as a gay man.

“It was a brave thing to do,’’ he added.

“Although the Minister’s sexuality is his own business, the fact is that his statement today may help young men in this country who have sexual identity issues or who are discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.’’