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Meeting between Taoiseach and US Vice President Mike Pence will be closed to the media again

This is the second time the breakfast meeting will be held behind closed doors.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his partner Matt Barrett with the US Vice President Mike Pence and the VP's sister Anne Pence Poynter in 2019.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with his partner Matt Barrett with the US Vice President Mike Pence and the VP's sister Anne Pence Poynter in 2019.
Image: PA

THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and US vice president Mike Pence will be closed to the media on Thursday. 

This is the second time the breakfast meeting will be held behind closed doors. It was open to the media last year

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 meeting takes place the morning before the Taoiseach meets the US President in the Oval Office.

The conversation between the Taoiseach and the US vice president is usually open to the media, but this year no reporters will be permitted.

Last year, the Taoiseach made international headlines when he attended the event with his partner Matt Barrett.

Speaking at Pence’s house last year, Varadkar said that growing up in Ireland he had always been fascinated by US politics, saying that “in many ways it helped to inspire me to believe in the power of politics to do good because ultimately that is what politics is all about”.

“It helped inspire me to run for office. I also knew at the time that I lived in a country where if I tried to be myself, at the time I would have ended up breaking laws.

“But today that has all changed. I stand here as leader of my country, flawed and human, where I am judged by my political actions and not my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.

“And I don’t think my country is the only one in the world where this story is possible. It is found in every country where liberty is cherished.

“We are, after all, all God’s children and that is true of the United States.” 

In 2019, Varadkar said he would raise the “wider issue” of LGBT rights with Pence.

Ahead of the breakfast meeting in 2018, he said: “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.”

Pence has been criticised for his record on gay and transgender rights, and has been much accused of supporting conversion therapy, the New York Times and other outlets have reported.

The Taoiseach is due to arrive in Washington DC later today.

There have been concerns over the last week that the White House visit could be cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Varadkar curtailed his US trip this year, deciding last-minute not to travel to New York.

However, a government spokesperson has stated that there will be no change of plans in terms of the Oval office meeting and the shamrock ceremony on Thursday.

It was confirmed yesterday that the Irish ambassador’s event on Thursday evening has now been cancelled.

The Taoiseach has 24 hours of engagements in Washington ahead of him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is being honoured at the Ireland Funds dinner this evening, and tomorrow Varadkar will meet the Vice President, President Trump and attend the annual Speaker’s lunch.

The Taoiseach’s St Patrick’s Day programme ends on Thursday evening, and on Friday, he will participate in the Cabinet committee on Covid 19, which will happen via teleconference.

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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