Gay Irish PM Leo Varadkar vows to challenge Donald Trump and Mike Pence on LGBT rights
Irish leader Leo Varadkar will use his face-time with Donald Trump to challenge his administration’s anti-LGBT agenda.
Ireland’s Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar is only the fourth openly gay world leader in recent political history – and has vowed to put equality at the heart of his leadership.
Speaking in Parliament this week ahead of a traditional visit to the United States for St Patrick’s Day (March 17), Mr Vadadkar said he would use his time with the US leader to press him on a number of issues.
He said: “Next week, as part of a one-week mission to the United States, I will be invited to the White House by President Trump.
“We will hold a bilateral meeting as part of that visit. President Trump is the head of Government of the United States, I am head of Government of Ireland and we are two countries which have very strong links.
“They are cultural – they run in our blood, most of us have American family and many Americans have Irish family – and they are economic. They are extremely important and I want to maintain and strengthen them. They will outlast any president or Taoiseach and it is important that we see everything through that perspective.
“There are many of Donald Trump’s policies with which I do not agree. I do not agree with him on migration, climate change or trade. I am very much a supporter of free trade and the politics of Donald Trump are much closer to those of Deputy Paul Murphy on that particular issue. I also believe very strongly in individual freedom, which encompasses women’s right and the rights of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.”
The Trump-Pence administration has been strongly criticised by LGBT rights groups for rolling back much of the work of the Obama administration on equality.
The Justice Department led by Jeff Sessions has come in for the most criticism for its systematic work to undermine civil rights protections for LGBT people.
Trump officials have repeatedly appeared before courts and filed legal briefs to argue that anti-LGBT discrimination in employment is not illegal, in one of the administration’s most brazen attacks on equality.
However, Varadkar’s opponents have called for him to boycott the Trump administration.
TD Paul Murphy said: “[Trump] is the ugly face of a capitalist system devoted to maximising profit at any cost.
“The best thing the Taoiseach could do would be to refuse to meet him, refuse to allow his racist, anti-immigrant policies to be greenwashed with a bowl of shamrock. The Taoiseach’s response will be predictable – he will not do it.”
But Varadkar responded: “Of course I intend to use the opportunity of the meeting I will have with President Trump, his Administration and the vice president to deal with and raise some of those issues.
“The traditional approach of the left and the far left to people they do not agree with is the policy of no platform, not talking to them, not sharing a platform with them and maybe just shouting at them. It has never really worked. The Government I lead will pursue a policy of engagement.”
The pair took to the streets of Montreal, Canada, to celebrate the city’s LGBT pride parade.
The event marked the first time a foreign head of government or state has ever been invited to partake in the celebration.
45-year-old Trudeau proudly waved the trans flag – made up of blue, pink and white – as onlookers cheered the parade.
He declared: “For all that we celebrate here in Canada, there is a lot of work to do around the world, and we need to build up our allies and stand together strongly for rights, for opportunities and for the values we know unite our countries.”
Trudeau has been a staunch defender of LGBT rights since taking office under the Liberal party banner.
“I think Ireland and Canada have a lot in common,” Varadkar said.
“What we have most in common that we are countries that understand that diversity is our strength and our differences make us better.”