Ireland’s Minister for Health Leo Varadkar, 36, has come out as a gay man confirming what had been rumored for some time. He stated he was making it public now because of the gay marriage referendum in May and to ensure people knew he had no hidden agenda.

Last month an Irish magazine, Village, made a direct reference to the sexuality of the minister and named his alleged significant other.

Varadkar, a qualified doctor before he entered politics, is often spoken as a future Irish leader. At just 36 he has already occupied two key positions in the Irish government and is favorite to succeed current leader Enda Kenny, 63, whenever he steps down.

He made the revelation on his 36th birthday on the Miriam O’Callaghan show on RTÉ Radio.

“It’s not something that defines me,”he said. “I’m not a half-Indian politician, or a doctor politician or a gay politician for that matter. It’s just part of who I am, it doesn’t define me, it is part of my character I suppose”.

“There’s a referendum on marriage equality coming up too, and I just want to be honest with people. I was thinking about the arguments that I might make, and all the arguments that I was going to make were kind of detached” he said, speaking on his 36th birthday.

“What I really want to say is that I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, the country in which I happen to be a member of Government, and at the moment I’m not,” he added.

“There are political and policy reasons too. I am now the Minister for Health, there are decisions coming up that are not entirely my own but I will be involved in them,” said Mr Varadkar, referring to surrogacy legislation and the debate over blood donations from gay and bisexual men.

“What I want people to know is that whatever decisions are made on any issue, I’ll make them according to what I believe is in the public interest and of my own conscience, I won’t be allowing my own background or my own sexual orientation to dictate the decisions that I make.”

Mr Varadkar stated he was coming out  “personal reasons” because he was comfortable to talk about his sexuality now but “wasn’t always”. “It’s not a big deal for me anymore, I hope it’s not a big deal for anyone else, it shouldn’t be,” he said.

Ireland’s Minister for Health Leo Varadkar.Photocall Ireland