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Leo Varadkar sat down with the New York Times for a big Sunday interview

In an interview with journalist Maureen Dowd the Taoiseach talked about abortion, Trump and LGBT rights.

IN AN INTERVIEW with The New York Times this weekend, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he has got “a beating” from the media in the last week.

Varadkar told Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Maureen Dowd:

“I’ve got a beating in the last week or so… And that’s very much on the media. I don’t think it’s necessarily coming from the public.”

In recent days, his judgement to send a tweet about the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death on the day that two homeless people died – one in Dublin, and the other in Kildare – came in for criticism.

He also defended the setting up on a new “strategic communications unit” within his own department, which has been dubbed by those in opposition as the Taoiseach’s own “spin machine”.

Questions raised about the costings of the unit (which government maintain has cost nothing extra to date) are yet to be clarified.

HOUSING SUMMIT Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy at this week's Housing Summit in Dublin. Source: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

While the Taoiseach states on his weekly video updates that Ireland is emerging from a “lost decade”, the media has questioned Varadkar about the rising number of people living in emergency accommodation.

The latest figures show that over 8,000 people were recorded as homeless last month.

However, the Taoiseach, who faces a number of challenges ahead in the new Dáil term, said he doesn’t believe he is being treated differently than other Taoisigh that have ruled before him.

“I don’t think they’re harder on me than they’ve been on any previous Taoiseach.”

In an interview headlined: “Move Over DiCaprio and da Vinci — Here’s Ireland’s Leo”, Varadkar  talks about abortion, marriage equality and Trump.

Earlier this year, Varadkar said he “wouldn’t be keen” on Donald Trump’s visiting Ireland. But now he says that it would be rude not to invite him.

The Taoiseach is set to continue the long-running tradition of the Irish Taoiseach presenting a bowl of shamrock to the US president on St Patrick’s Day.

He said he will use the opportunity to speak to Donald Trump about a range of issues, including, migration, climate change, women’s rights and LGBT rights.

It’s also tradition that the Taoiseach have breakfast at the Vice President’s house ahead of going to the White House on St Patrick’s Day.

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Vice President Mike Pence (who Enda Kenny dined with last year), is not without controversy himself. He is considered a far-right conservative figure who has been involved in battles over marriage equality and equal rights in the last decade.

Time Magazine quotes him as stating that being gay is a choice and that keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea”.

How would the Taoiseach reconcile such words over breakfast?

Varadkar told The New York Times he is looking forward to meeting Pence, and speaking to him about LGBT rights, stating:

“My experience of the very successful marriage equality referendum here was that if you want to convince people to change their minds, it’s not by shouting at them or lecturing them or attacking them personally or degrading them. That’s not how you change hearts and minds.”

One of the biggest issues facing the Taoiseach is the referendum on abortion, which he has committed to holding next year.

Outlining his views, he said he does not agree that a “baby in the womb, the fetus, whatever term you want to use, should have no rights at all”. He said the rights should not be equal to those of the mother, in his view, but added he disagrees with those that argue that human rights should only begin after a child is born.

“I don’t agree with that,” he said.

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