by James Stout, San Diego, CA

First LGBTQ Irish PM Appointed During Pride Month

This week, the new Irish prime minister set a lot of firsts. Unusually for the past 12 months, these firsts were not the kind that result in a pained wince from those of us invested in progressive politics. Ireland’s new Taoiseach, or prime minister is Leo Varadkar is the youngest person to ever hold the office. He’s also the first openly gay man to head up the Irish Parliament, in a country that banned same sex relationships less than a quarter of a century ago.

16 Jun, 2017

Varadkar received his seal of office this week and delivered a speech in which he stated that “"The government that I lead will not be one of left or right, because those old divisions don't comprehend the political challenges of today". His economic stance is one that is very pro free market, he is often said to be an inheritor of the economic legacy of Britain’s first woman Prime Minister, Margaret hatcher. Socially the new Taoiseach will be much more liberal, he is pro abortion and pro LGBTQ.

Enda Kenny, who stepped down after six years, said his successor represented a “modest, diverse and inclusive Ireland”. Indeed it was Kenny who, only two years ago, led the Republic of Ireland through a referendum that added the thirty fourth amendment to the nation’s constitution and legalized same sex marriage. Given how the debate around this issue was far from one sided, the appointment of Varadakar to a nation that seems to be un concerned with his sexuality is particularly pleasing.

Varadakar is a doctor whose father Ashok and mother Miriam met at an English hospital in India in the 1960s. His partner, Matthew Barrett is a doctor who also watched the ceremonies this week. His role in the future of Europe is bound to be an interesting one. Ireland has a direct land border with the United Kingdom, putting it at the forefront of the Brexit negotiations. It should also be a chance for Varadakar to make his social agenda part of the European future.

Given that this is pride month, it is particularly pleasing to reflect on the progress that has been made. It is easy to get upset by the changes in the colour of the pride flag (who really cares so long as it makes people feel included) or the all white skittles (when a company tries to acknowledge pride, don’t bite their hand off for it, even if their candy looks anaemic). But, during a month that is about celebrating who we are it’s nice to celebrate progress.