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'A very nice gesture': Mike Pence tells Leo Varadkar that his partner Matt would be welcome in his home

It is tradition during the St Patrick’s Day trip to Washington DC for the Taoiseach to have breakfast with the VP.

Image: cliodhna

Updated 9.08pm

US VICE PRESIDENT Mike Pence has told Leo Varadkar that the Taoiseach’s partner, Matt Barrett, would be welcome in Pence’s home if he decides to attend next year’s St Patrick’s Day visit to the US.

Pence made the comments during a private conversation between the two, during which Varadkar raised LGBT rights and equality issues.

The US vice president describes himself as a “Christian, a conservative and a Republican” and has been criticised for his views and his legislative record on LGBT people.

The two held a closed breakfast meeting earlier today, breaking with the tradition of allowing the media access to the conversation.

The Taoiseach said it was the US administration that made the decision to have the meeting in private.

It is tradition during the St Patrick’s Day trip to Washington DC for the Taoiseach to have breakfast with the vice president.

Generally, this is done the morning before the Taoiseach meets the US President in the Oval Office.

Breaking from tradition this year, Varadkar attended the vice president’s residence this morning, a day after meeting Donald Trump in the White House.

The media questioned the vice president as to why the meeting was happening behind closed doors – but Pence gave no reply.

Taoiseach’s remarks

Speaking this evening in New York City following the meeting, Varadkar said that he had privately spoken to the the Pence family about LGBT rights.

“I did privately get to speak to them about equality bout my support for equal rights for women and the LGBT community in America and Ireland,” Varadkar said.

They were very well briefed. They knew about my personal story, that my partner was living in Chicago and they said both Matt and I would be very welcome to visit their home in future.

Varadkar said this was a “very nice gesture”.

Pence’s remarks

In his own remarks at the breakfast, Pence thanked Varadkar for coming to the US and paid tribute to the strong connection between Ireland and the US.

Pence – whose grandfather was from Sligo before he emigrated to the US – said it was “very special” to be able to celebrate St Patrick’s Day with the people gathered.

“But let me say, as the President said, yesterday, the relationship between Ireland and the United States has never been stronger and it’s only getting better,” Pence said.

He also said that he and his wife would “be traveling to Ireland in the coming years.  I promise you that.  We will accept that wonderful invitation.”.


Conversion therapy

Earlier this week, TheJournal.ie asked Varadkar if he would raise the issue of conversion therapy and LGBT rights with Pence.

The Taoiseach said he will raise the “wider issue” of LGBT rights with Pence, if he has the opportunity.

I am told Vice President Pence is not a supporter of conversion therapy even though some people have mentioned he is. But I imagine I will have the opportunity, I am going to be meeting him over breakfast on Friday morning, so if I have the opportunity I will certainly be mentioning the wider issue of equal rights and freedoms for LGBT citizens.

Closed meeting

Speaking after his meeting with US President Trump, Varadkar said he did not know why the media are not allowed to attend the meeting.

“I don’t know, he was actually in the meeting here now and I’m going to meet him again over breakfast tomorrow,” Varadkar said.

I appreciate from a media point of view you’d like to be there and we’d like you to be there too but it’s their decision that it be closed.

“It allows us have maybe a frank conversation that we wouldn’t be able to have if the media was present,” he said.

What’s on the menu other than perhaps a frosty meeting? Eggs, Irish potatoes and avocado.

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