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Leo Varadkar's partner to attend breakfast meeting at house of US vice president Mike Pence

Last year, Mike Pence told the Taoiseach his partner, Matt Barrett, would be welcome in Pence’s home if he decides to attend this year.

Leo Varadkar and Matt Barrett marching in the NY parade last St Patrick's Day
Leo Varadkar and Matt Barrett marching in the NY parade last St Patrick's Day
Image: Niall Carson

Christina Finn reports from Washington DC

LEO VARADKAR’S PARTNER will join him for the St Patrick’s Day celebrations at US Vice President’s house today. 

Last year, Mike Pence told the Taoiseach his partner, Matt Barrett, would be welcome in Pence’s home if he decides to attend this year.

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 vice president was criticised last year for breaking with the tradition and not allowing media access to the conversation. Members of the press were left on the lawn of the vice president’s home during the meeting. 

At the time, the Taoiseach said it was the US administration’s decision to have the meeting in private.

Prior to it, Varadkar repeatedly said he would talk with Pence about social issues, including LGBT rights.

Breakfast meeting

Confirming Barrett’s attendance yesterday, Varadkar said:

“He’s going to be at the breakfast tomorrow. He was able to get time off work and make the journey. He’ll be taking up the invitation from Mike and Karen Pence to attend tomorrow. Karen can’t be there because she’s in Abu Dhabi for the Special Olympics.”

Barrett will also attend the traditional shamrock ceremony in the White House but it is understood he will not take to the stage during the presentation. 

The media are permitted to attend the breakfast meeting this year. 

Speaker’s Lunch

After breakfast, Varadkar will attend the annual Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, and meet with senior members of Congress.

All eyes will be on the Taoiseach after last year’s kerfuffle when he went off script during his speech.

During the luncheon he told a story about Trump contacting him in 2014 in relation to a matter concerning Trump’s golf course and hotel at Doonbeg in Co Clare.

Varadkar said that he inquired about the planning permission for a proposed wind farm after he received a call from then-businessman Trump.

Varadkar was Tourism Minister at the time.

In his comments, Varadkar said that he made contact with the council about the plan.

“So I endeavoured to do what I could do about it. I rang [Clare] County Council and inquired about the planning permission and subsequently, the planning permission was declined, and the wind farm was never built, thus the landscape being preserved,” Varadkar said.

Varadkar added that Trump “has kindly given me credit for that, although I think it would probably have been refused anyway”.

Just a joke

Varadkar later had to issue a clarification, stating that he had gone back to check with his staff and records following the controversy caused by his remarks, adding that he had done nothing wrong. 

Varadkar said the luncheon is the kind of occasion where people make jokes and tell anecdotes. 

Later this evening, the Taoiseach will join Trump and his wife Melania, for the traditional shamrock ceremony at the White House, in advance of attending the Ambassador’s St Patrick’s Day Reception.

In his meetings he will also emphasise the strength of Irish-US relations, and will recall the important role of the US in supporting peace and the Good Friday Agreement, and outline Ireland’s position on Brexit.

He will also press the case for resolving the situation facing the undocumented Irish in America.

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Leo Varadkar’s visit to Washington DC this week, including his meeting with US President Donald Trump on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@TJ_Politics  and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page

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