Varadkar tells Pence: 'I will be judged on my actions not on sexual orientation or skin tone'

Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett attend US vice-president’s St Patrick’s Day breakfast

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar tells US vice-president Mike Pence that he is proud to live in Ireland, where he is judged by his political actions and not by his "sexual orientation or skin colour." Video: Suzanne Lynch/ C-Span

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar used his St Patrick’s Day meeting with US vice president Mike Pence on Thursday to highlight the societal and cultural changes that have taken place in Ireland in recent decades.

Mr Varadkar, who attended the annual vice-president’s breakfast at Mr Pence’s official residence along with his partner Matt Barrett, delivered some short, personal remarks.

“Last year, you said that my partner, Matt, would be welcome to join. We are both very honoured to accept that invitation this year,” he began.

“I stand here this morning as leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged on my political actions and mistakes and not on my sexual orientation or my skin tone or my gender or my religious beliefs. I do not believe my country is the only one in the world where my story is possible. It is found in every country where freedom and liberty are cherished. We are, after all, all God’s children.”

Mr Pence, who is an evangelical Christian, has been sharply criticised by human rights groups and others for his previous comments on homosexuality.

Mr Pence said he was honoured to have both Mr Varadkar and his partner to his home. While his wife Karen was in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics, Mr Pence greeted the Taoiseach along with his sister Anne.

‘Irish brogue’

He said that he planned to visit Ireland this year with his family, as he spoke fondly of his own Irish-American heritage. Mr Pence’s grandfather emigrated from Tubercurry in Co Sligo in the 1920s. He said that on the day he took the oath of office as vice-president he thought of his grandfather who had arrived in America at Ellis Island. “He was proud of being American but I can still hear that Irish brogue,” he said.

Our citizens share an abiding love of faith, family and freedom

Noting that 32 million Americans trace their ancestry back to Ireland, Mr Pence said that Irish people’s contribution to American history stretch all the way back to the revolutionary war and long before. “The partnership between our two countries has never been stronger,” he said.

Bipartisan tradition

Later, at the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi welcomed the Taoiseach, and noted that the annual lunch was a bipartisan tradition stretching back to Ronald Reagan. Quoting the former Republican president about the dangers of “closing the door to new Americans”, she spoke of the valuable contribution Irish Americans have made to the United States.

In brief remarks to the lunch, Mr Trump spoke of the “great friendship” between Ireland and America. “It’s a friendship like rarely does any country have with another. Our citizens share an abiding love of faith, family and freedom.”