A FORMER government minister has said Leo Varadkar inspired him to publicly declare that he is gay.
Pat Carey, who served as minister for community, equality and Gaeltacht affairs in the last government, today revealed his sexuality after the health minister came out last month.
He said he fears the same-sex marriage campaign for May’s referendum from the Fianna Fail party lacks urgency.
While family and friends knew of his personal life, Mr Carey said he told other Fianna Fail colleagues this week.
“It happened in the context of the meeting that a number of Fianna Fail activists had in Dublin a couple of nights ago. I was asked to chair it,” he told RTE radio today.
“In terms of coming out, a lot of people who would be close to me or work with me would know since 2011 that I am gay.
“But to be frank about it, I suppose I didn’t have the courage or confidence to talk about it to a wider audience maybe. I am sorry about that.
“In the context of Leo Varadkar doing his interview with Miriam (O’Callaghan) a couple of weeks ago, I said to myself if I got an opportunity, maybe my perspective might be helpful to other people of my age.
“I sat in the car on the way into the local Lidl shop and I waited and I said, ‘My God, he needs to be applauded’.
“There are many other people like him around the place, and women similarly who would love to be more honest with themselves and honest with the public. There is a big gap between myself (67) and Leo Varadkar (36) in terms of age.
“There are lots of men and women of my generation who have the same difficulty that I had in trying to articulate gender issues. I spent 26/27 years in politics. To be honest, you didn’t have time to reflect on a personal life.
“I was all-consumed by what I was doing at the time. I think most politicians separate their private and public lives whether they are married or gay”.
He said it was a 2011 “car crash moment” when Fianna Fail suffered a general election meltdown that he had time to reflect and “is now able to talk about it. I also fairly deliberately stayed out of public comment over the last number of years”.
“If my experiences or something like it might help others who have difficulties or might give another perspective to the referendum campaign then I will lend my authority to it,” he said.
He said the Fianna Fail party need to display more energy in relation to this referendum.
“I know it is early days yet. I would be concerned that a lot of the soft support inevitably moves away unless there is a fairly proactive approach taken,” he said.
He said the referendum will be won by the “mothers of Ireland” and that the sky wouldn’t fall in if it is passed.
“I never had any difficulty with my family at all,” he said.
From Kerry originally, Mr Carey, who served as a TD for Dublin South-West from 1997 to 2011, said he is “enjoying” life at the moment. He said he is “in a relationship for the last number of years”.
“The transition to have someone that you care about and he cares about me and so on. It does make a difference to have someone to come home and share your life with,” he said.