Leo Varadkar doesn't plan 'first gentleman' role for partner

Fine Gael leadership favourite Leo Varadkar has no plans to ask his partner to attend official engagements if elected taoiseach. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar has revealed that he has no plans to ask his partner to attend official engagements should the Fine Gael leadership front-runner become taoiseach.

The Republic's social protection minister has spoken about his feelings for Dr Matthew Barrett, his partner of two years.

The openly-gay Mr Varadkar is favourite to succeed Enda Kenny as Fine Gael leader and taoiseach.

The latest opinion poll shows him narrowly ahead of leadership rival Simon Coveney.

The Sunday Business Post/Red C survey found around 41 per cent of voters believe Mr Varadkar would make the best taoiseach, compared to 39 per cent for Mr Coveney.

The gap between the two has narrowed since the last opinion poll a month ago when 40 per cent were opting for the Dublin West TD and 34 per cent for his Cork South-Central counterpart.

However, the research shows that Mr Varadkar has a clear lead among Fine Gael supporters, with 55 per cent opting for the social protection minister.


Mr Coveney has the backing of 21 of the party's TDs, senators and MEPs while 46 of them are supporting Mr Varadkar.

In a newspaper interview published yesterday, Mr Varadkar said a generational shift was taking place in political life which did not require his partner to attend official engagements.

He also discussed his feelings for his partner, who like the Fine Gael leadership contender, is a medical doctor.

"Matt is just a very special person, someone who is unconditionally on my side, which is always great," he told the Sunday Independent.

"He is the kind of person who has made me a better person – I know I sound like Jack Nicholson is 'As Good As It Gets', but it's true."

He described his Gaeilgeoir partner as "cleverer than me" and said he occasionally found that intimidating.

"He is very, very intelligent – he can read faster than me, he can do calculations faster than me – he is very bright."

Mr Varadkar also spoke of his anxiety about revealing his sexuality in 2015 ahead of the Republic's same-sex marriage referendum.

"I was very worried – I was very worried about it for about a year," he said.

Mr Varadkar's parents Ashok and Miriam also spoke about their son's partner, describing him as "part of the family" and saying he has "been good for Leo".

The Dublin West TD told the paper he and his partner had not spoken about marriage.

Asked about his partner appearing at official engagements, he responded: "While that has been the tradition in politics, it doesn't necessarily have to be."

Mr Varadkar cites the example of Angela Merkel, who he points out is on her third term as German chancellor.

"She has a husband but he has a job – he has only ever attended one occasion with her because he has his own career," he said.

"I think that would be part of the generational shift in politics, because traditionally you had a male leader, a wife who had given up her job. We are now moving into an era across the world where men and couples have their own careers."

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