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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 16, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 24
Ireland chooses Gay prime minister
Section One
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Ireland chooses Gay prime minister

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Leo Varadkar became the first out Gay prime minister of Ireland - or Taoiseach - on June 14, after the Dail, Ireland's parliament voted to confirm him.

Varadkar is also the first Irish leader of immigrant background. His father was born in Mumbai, India, and moved to England, where he married the Taoiseach's Irish mother.

Varadkar was elected leader of the governing Fine Gael party on June 2. Afterward, the party submitted his name to become Taoiseach - and Mr. Varadkar's nomination was approved in a vote by the Dáil Éireann (lower house of Parliament). He was confirmed by a vote of 57-50, with 45 abstentions.

Fine Gael heads a minority government with 57 votes, backed up by the second-largest party, Fianna Fail, which abstained in the vote on Taoiseach.

As soon as he took office, Varadkar named Simon Covey, his rival in the Fine Gael leadership election, as deputy leader. He was 'delighted' to do so, Varadkar said.

'Simon and I will work together to guide the participation by Fine Gael in the Government, and reform and modernize the Fine Gael Party in the years ahead,' Varadkar promised.

In the Fine Gael leadership election, Varadkar beat Covey with 60% of the votes. He easily won the support of the party's parliamentary delegation but trailed Covey among rank-and-file party members.

In a speech after being confirmed as Taoiseach, Varadkar noted Ireland's progress on LGBT issues, with Gay sex legalized in 1993 and full marriage equality passed by popular vote in 2015.

'If my election has shown anything, it is that prejudice has no hold in this Republic,' he said. He added that his father would be proud that his son could be 'judged by his actions, not his origins or identity.'

Varadkar's election to the country's political leadership was hailed by LGBT rights groups.

'It is a historic day for the LGBT+ community, and indeed for all of Ireland as we welcome the country's first openly Gay Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar,' Moninne Griffith, executive director of BeLonG To Youth Services, said.

'This is a huge step forward for Ireland, and we applaud the fact that this political race focused on policy and the issues, and not sexual orientation.

'As Ireland's national LGBT+ youth service, we are delighted that the new leader of Fine Gael is a Gay man, and now a role model for the youth who use our services across the country.

'There is no doubt there has been a huge change in Ireland since the Marriage Equality Referendum. But we have to be realistic and remember that there are many thousands of LGBT+ young people who continue to face harassment and bullying because of their sexual orientation, gender identification, and gender expression.

'There has been a 100% increase in the number of young people accessing our services since the referendum. Each week, we have 150 young people coming through the doors in our Dublin services and hundreds more accessing support through our national network of LGBT+ youth groups.

'We are committed to continuing to represent LGBT+ young people and their families and we look forward to working with the presumptive Taoiseach on improving their lives and well-being.'

The only other out Gay national leader currently serving is Prime Minister Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg.

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