Former Fianna Fáil minister Pat Carey has said speaking out publicly as a gay man might help other people of his age and generation .
"There are lots of men and indeed women of my generation who have the same difficulty that I had in coming to terms with how you articulate your gender issues," he told Sean O'Rourke on RTÉ Radio One today.
The 67-year-old noted there was a “big gap” between himself and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar (35), who recently spoke publicly about being a gay man.
After Mr Varadkar's interview Mr Carey said he would speak out if he got a chance. The ex-Dublin North-West TD, spoke of his sexuality in an interview with The Irish Times which was published today.
“You think back to what it was like when you were growing up, and if I were writing it up or whatever, would say since my early teens that I was aware that I was in some way different,” he said.
“The part of the country I came from the word gay wasn’t even heard of, people were regarded as being ‘a bit odd’,” he added.
The former equality minister said he has been openly gay for the last four years, but had never “come out” as such, and is currently in a relationship with another man following 35 years of solitude.
He said it was only when the “car crash” moment came with the collapse of the Fianna Fail Government in 2011 that he had time to “reflect” and speak about his sexuality to family and colleagues. It was not difficult to keep his sexuality to himself while in politics because he was “all consumed” with his work.
“I never had the confidence or the courage to do it, and it gets to a stage where you probably say to yourself ‘it’s too late for me to start talking about it now’,” he said.
He recalled “quite crude comments from people that I felt should have known better. I heard it said not that long ago among a group of people whom I thought would have known better, and would have grown out of that way of articulating anything. Some people, I forgive them for their crude use of language at times because they’ve never been exposed to having to argue a position that clearly is new .”
Mr Carey believes political parties would do “everybody a favour” by staying out of the debate around this year’s same-sex marriage referendum.
He said that the issue of children and adoptions should be kept entirely separate from public discourse over the upcoming vote.
"To be honest, there's one side of me that suggests maybe the political parties should do everybody a great favour and stay out of the debate," he told Pat Kenny separately in an interview with Newstalk radio this morning.
“But realistically there has to be a campaign and political parties are best equipped to organise campaigns.
“There’s a huge amount of soft support for it, but from working the length and breadth of the country I get a fair feel for sentiment, and getting people to come out and vote on the day of the referendum is going to be the biggest challenge,” he added.
Mr Carey expressed the view that it was a mistake not to pass the Family Relationships bill by now, as points relating to adoption of children for gay couples from that piece of legislation are getting confused with discussions over next May’s plebiscite.
“If I have a concern about this debate it is that the Family Relationships bill, that ought to have been passed by now really, the debate around that is going to be confused with the issues around marriage equality, which is a pity,” he said.
He said the passing of the Civil Partnership Act in 2010 proved to be a watershed moment in this country.
“I think that there has been a really transformational change in Irish society in the meantime... I hope we can build on that, and I think ratifying the marriage equality legislation referendum will help along that road.
“I frankly don’t think the sky’s going to fall in- it didn’t fall in when Máire Geoghegan-Quinn brought in the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the sky hasn’t fallen in with the Civil Partnership bill, and I have no doubt that the sky won’t fall in when equal marriage becomes law,” Mr Carey said.
He went on to reiterate criticisms over his own party's contribution to the yes campaign, and spoke of the difficulties he and colleague Dermot Ahern faced in trying to get the Civil Partnership bill ratified by members of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party.