Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar slams Donald Trump’s America for failing on LGBT rights
Ireland’s leader has condemned President Trump over his failure to back LGBT rights.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the US was no longer a leader on freedom and equality, and that he believes the majority of American people would agree with him, even if the Trump administration does not.
The Irish premier made the comments during an interview at the South by South West festival in Austin, Texas.
Mr Varadkar said he would raise gay rights when he has a bilateral meeting with President Donald Trump in the White House this Thursday.
“What I intend to say is that for the vast majority of people around the world including people from gay lesbian transgender backgrounds, we have always seen America as a beacon of freedom,” the Taoiseach said.
“This is the land of the free, the home of the brave. This is where the LGBT rights movement began.”
He added: “It is really tough to see a country that is built on freedom, and built on individual freedom somehow not being a world leader in that space anymore.
“I actually think on this issue the majority of American people would agree with what I have to say, even if the administration doesn’t.”
Mr Varadkar added that he hoped America would one day take leadership in the area again.
Mr Varakdar is in the US as part of a traditional Irish visit to the United States for St Patrick’s Day (March 17).
He warned Trump ahead of the trip that he would be raising the issue.
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.
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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 rather than challenge them in person.
Irish MP 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.”