Ireland’s first gay Taoiseach promises ‘to speak up for LGBT rights around the world’
Ireland’s newly elected openly gay Prime Minister has pledged to speak up for LGBT rights across the world during a Pride event in Dublin.
The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, spoke to a crowd of an estimated 30,000 people during Dublin Pride.
Varadkar, who is the first gay man to be elected as the head of Government, told marchers that he would “be the voice for toleration, respect and equality around the world”.
“I pledge as Taoiseach to use my office, for as long as I hold it, to advance the cause of LGBT rights, to press for marriage equality across Ireland, to speak up for LGBT rights around the world where they are under attack, and to push for the implementation of the sexual health strategy here at home at a time when it is more important than ever,” he said.
The Fine Gael politician went on to speak about the leaps and bounds that LGBT rights have made in the last few years in the country.
“If someone had predicted back in 1992 that one year later homosexuality would be decriminalised, or that 23 years later gay and lesbian people would be legally able to marry the person they love, or that two years after that a gay man would be elected Taoiseach of the country, then I think they would actually have been derided. So history can be slow to move, but when it does move it moves very quickly.”
He added that it shouldn’t be celebrated that the country has “a Taoiseach who is a gay man”, instead he insisted that they “live in a free country – in a democracy where we have a Taoiseach who happens to be gay.”
Varadkar added that he would not make sure Ireland would not “shirk our responsibilities on the international stage and we will be the voice for toleration, respect and equality around the world.”
“When we look back on all that has happened in this country over the past few years, all the progress that has been made, remember that this was not due to any one person.
“It was because of a movement, a movement made up of you and your friends and your families and supporters.”
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He added that he does not believe he made history simply by being elected, but rather he reflected the change happening in the country.
“I don’t think my election as Taoiseach actually made history, it just reflected it, reflected the enormous changes that had already occurred in our country.
“So, I don’t think that I have changed things for you; I think people like you have changed things for me.”
He also used the speech as a moment to pay his respects to Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, the late wife of Irish minister Katherine Zappone.
“The day I became Taoiseach was also a sad day. It was the same day a great champion of freedom and equality in this country passed away.
“I know all of us were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, a brilliant academic and community leader, whose courage helped change the laws in this country.
“Our thoughts are with Ann Louise’s wife, Katherine, at this time. Together they have been an inspiration to so many people in this country, and around the world.”