This is the first time Vice President Pence has hosted an openly gay leader
Ireland’s Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Leo Varadkar brought along his partner Dr. Matt Barrett during his breakfast visit to Vice President Mike Pence’s residence in Washington, DC.
The Taoiseach is in the US this week for a slew of appearances and meetings in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day on Sunday.
On Wednesday, the Taoiseach said of partner Dr. Matt Barrett: "he was able to get time off work and make the journey so he'll be taking up the invitation from Mike and Karen Pence to attend tomorrow."
'Matt was able to get the time off, so we'll be there tomorrow morning' - Taoiseach's partner will accompany him to meet Mike Pence pic.twitter.com/0l5dxj8B8j— RTÉ News (@rtenews) March 13, 2019
Dr. Barrett is a cardiologist who spends time working in Chicago. He and the Taoiseach have reportedly been together since 2015.
Last year, Vice President Pence reportedly extended an invitation to Varadkar and Barrett to visit him and his wife Karen at their Washington, DC residence.
At Thursday’s breakfast, Vice President Pence was accompanied by his sister Anne Poynter; his wife Karen is in Abu Dhabi to attend the Special Olympics.
Vice President Mike Pence invited me and Matt to his home at the Naval Observatory this morning. It’s great to be back here for a really warm reception. pic.twitter.com/Wkh2Ic8lWP— Leo Varadkar (@campaignforleo) March 14, 2019
During a speech at the Vice President’s US Naval Observatory residence, the Irish leader said his fascination with American politics at a young age “helped to inspire me to believe in the power of politics to do good because ultimately that is what politics is all about.”
“It helped inspire me to run for office, to become involved in making laws and driving change.”
“But I also knew at the time that I lived in a country where, if I tried to be myself at the time, it would have ended up breaking laws.”
Homosexuality in Ireland wasn’t decriminalized until 1993. In 2015, Ireland voted by referendum to legalize gay marriage, becoming the first country in the world to do so by popular vote.
"But today, that is all changed. I stand here this morning as leader of my country, flawed and human, but judged by my political actions and not by my sexual orientation or my skin tone or my gender or religious beliefs.”
"And I don’t believe my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible.”
"It is found in every country where freedom and liberty are cherished.”
"We are after all, all god’s children.”
"That’s true of the United States as well, the land and home of the brave and free."
Vice President Pence later addressed those at the meeting: “The Irish have given so much to America and today the partnership between our two countries, as the Taoiseach knows, has never been stronger.”
“The United States also stands with the Irish Republic as the United Kingdom continues to work through the issues of Brexit and we look forward to the day when we can even begin talks about expanding trade, a new trade agreement to grow our two economies and prosper both of our peoples.
Honored to welcome the Taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar to the Vice President’s residence for breakfast this morning to begin St. Patrick’s Day weekend. pic.twitter.com/igii8oQbWQ— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 14, 2019
The Washington Post reports that Varadkar is among the few openly gay world leaders, joining Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel and Serbia’s Ana Brnabic.
The Washington Post goes on to note that Varadkar’s visit was the first time that Vice President Pence has hosted an openly gay world leader, but that may be because of their “low numbers.”
Varadkar’s partner Dr. Barrett will not be involved with the traditional presentation of shamrocks to the President later on Thursday.