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Former minister Pat Carey on being gay: ‘Colleagues sometimes unwittingly said hurtful things’

“To be frank about it I didn’t have the courage, the confidence to talk about it to a wider audience, maybe. I’m sorry about that.”

Image: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

Updated at 8.52pm

FORMER FIANNA FÁÍL minister Pat Carey has said he chose to speak out publicly about his sexuality because he’s worried that ‘soft support’ for gay marriage may be eroded before May’s referendum.

The 67-year-old, who served as a minister and junior minister under the Brian Cowen-led Fianna Fáil Government, said he had never spoken about the issue before because he “didn’t have the courage”.

Speaking this evening to RTÉ’s Six One, Carey said that after “that famous car-crash election” in 2011, he had “plenty of time of reflection”.

He also said that when the civil partnership legislation was first mooted, some of his colleagues “unwittingly made comments that were hurtful.”

That kind of lad-ish behaviour still lurks there, I think. I hope it’s almost gone.

However, his main comments were made on RTÉ Radio 1 earlier today.

“In terms of coming out, or whatever it was — a lot of people who are close-ish to me and who work with me would know it from early 2011 that I’m gay,” he told Today With Sean O’Rourke.

“But to be frank about it I didn’t have the courage or the confidence to talk about it to a wider audience, maybe.

“I’m sorry about that.”

Carey said that after Leo Varadkar gave his radio interview several weeks ago “I said that if I got the opportunity — I said it to myself, I didn’t say it to anybody else — that maybe my perspective might be helpful to other people of my age”.

The former minister, who (alongside dozens of his party colleagues) lost his seat in the 2011 General Election, said he thought Fianna Fáil needed to devote more energy to their campaign in favour of same sex marriage.

He said he believed all parties needed to take a more “pro-active” approach to the issue, ahead of the May vote.

Coming to terms…

He said there were “lots of men — and indeed women — of my generation who had the same difficulty that I had in terms of trying to come to terms with how you articulate your gender issues”.

Carey — who has been working in PR for the last few years —said he had been “all consumed” with work during his career in politics, adding:

To be honest you didn’t have time to reflect on a personal life and I think that would be true of the vast majority of politicians.

“I think most politicians for a variety of reasons separate their private and public lives whether they’re married or whether they are gay.”

He said it was only after the “car crash moment came in early 2011″ that he had time to reflect, and decided to speak about his sexuality with his immediate family and colleagues.

“I also tried to deliberately stay out of public comment over the last few years and I don’t intend to enter it now really other than to say that if my experience or something like it can help others who might have difficulties or it might give another perspective to the referendum campaign then [I'll bring] whatever authority I can to it.”

Asked whether he thought his family had always known, he said…

“To be honest, I think this referendum will be won by the mothers of Ireland .

“I think mothers know, and they have a way of knowing.

Certainly, mothers of my generation didn’t say it to anybody. But I think in their hearts they know that there is some kind of a difference there.

He added that he “never had any difficulty with my family”.

He had known from around his early teens that he was in some way different, he said — noting that when he was that age, the word ‘gay’ didn’t exist. “You were regarded as being — in inverted commas — a bit odd”.

Carey said he had been in a relationship “for the last number of years and I’m enjoying it”.

He said that after developing “a certain level of idiosyncrasy” after being on his own for so long, he enjoyed having someone to come home to, and to share his life with: “somebody that you care about, and he cares about me, and so on”.

Read: ‘Yes’ side enjoys massive lead in same-sex marriage debate, but how secure is it? – Poll

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