Minister Leo Varadkar and Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 studio

“Leo was always gay. So where was he in 2005?” – Ireland’s African community reacts to Varadkar’s Gay disclosure

Minister Leo Varadkar and Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 studio

Minister Leo Varadkar and Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1 studio

Opinion leaders in the Ireland’s African community are reacting with cautious indifference to the disclosure yesterday by the Irish minister for Health Leo Varadkar that he is a gay man.

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Many who spoke to XCLUSIVE Magazine dismissed it as “no news” and “not a big deal.” Solicitor Moses Orode Oyiki said that Varadkar being a gay man is absolutely not a big deal since “his sexual orientation [does not] affect his job.” Chinedu Onyejelem, publisher of Metro Éireann, echoes similar sentiment when he passed it off as “his personal life.” He, however, would have preferred that Mr Varadkar was “very open about it before he became a politician.”

A popular Nigerian radio presenter, who asked not to be named, said she is actually shocked and very surprised, as she thought “Leo had a wife and kids.” She is quick to add, however, that she does not “feel any differently about him. I bet we’re living in a civilised world and people, especially grown up adults, are free to tailor the way they choose to live.”

In spite of the cautious indifference, other opinion leaders in the Ireland’s African community dismiss Varadkar’s gay disclosure as a political stunt, borne out of selfish motive. They argue that by coming out of the closet now, Varadkar is hoping to deflate attention from the crippling health sector and to influence opinion in favour of the same-sex marriage referendum coming up in May this year.

Clement Esebamen, former Special Adviser to the Minister for Integration and an Independent candidate, Dublin West constituency in General Election 2011, argues that the 36-year-old Dublin West TD has never been known to fight for the rights of disadvantaged people and minority group, and wonders where he was at the thick of the struggle since 2005.

He said: “A great many people in modern Ireland, at least from the turn of the century, have fought for equality and human rights of disadvantaged people and to eliminate discrimination. This has helped in no small way to create an atmosphere in Ireland that is now receptive to difference and more conducive to be out as proudly gay.

“I will specifically mention equality advocates like Niall Crowley, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy and Anna Lee; anti-racists like Lynn Jackson, Salome Mbugua, Kensika Moshengwo and Ronit Lentin; and rainbow groups such as OutHouse, who at great personal cost contributed to the slow turning of the progress wheel in this country that has now made it possible for a cabinet Minister to come out as gay in 2015.

“I dare say Leo was always gay. So where was he in 2005? I don’t want to dampen the euphoric symbolism but I respect action to improve the quality of life for all. He should focus on the dastardly waiting list in his Health Service.”

XCLUSIVE Magazine reported on 18 January 2015 that Leo Varadkar is Ireland’s first ever openly gay minister, following his disclosure to Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio 1: “I am a gay man, it’s not a secret, but not something that everyone would necessarily know but isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before.”

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