Health Minister Leo Varadkar at a Community First Response scheme launch in the National Concert Hall yesterday yesterday.
The issue of same sex marriage and comments he made on gay adoption were raised during an interview this morning with Health Minister Leo Varadkar on RTÉ R1’s Today With Sean O’Rourke.
Sean O’Rourke: “..you and [your] cabinet colleagues agreed the wording of the constitutional change or at least a proposed change in the Constitution, to provide for same sex marriage, or I think it’s called the Marriage Equality Bill, and its, it’s a very simple and brief phrase, I think it says ‘Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex’, I suppose there was heightened interest in your own view given what you had said to Miriam O’Callaghan about being gay last Sunday here on the station. What kind of reaction have you had to that and do you think your own decision to, if you like, make your situation known has helped the campaign was that part of your thinking?”
Leo Varadkar: “Not hugely, it was very much a personal decision because there’s a number of policy issues coming up, issues about blood transfusion whether gay men can donate blood, issues about surrogacy, I didn’t want anyone to think or suggest I had some kind of hidden agenda, so that’s really why I said what I said, I don’t think there was anything behind it other than that. Look, the response from people has been really great, from constituents, from party members has been really very encouraging and I’m really grateful for that. I kind of wonder why I didn’t do it sooner but I’m a very private person and I’m going to keep my private life out of politics and that’s the way it’s going to stay.”
O’Rourke: “Okay. Now, one thing that two campaigners on the ‘no’ side – both representatives of the Iona Institute – Ronan Mullen and Breda O’Brien, they’ve been reminding us on in print and on the airwaves of something you said in the Dail in 2010, that every child has the right to a mother and a father and the State should vindicate that right, that’s a much more important right than that of two men and two women having a family, is that still your view?
Varadkar: “Yeah, well I should point out that was a speech ten years, or rather five years ago, it was a speech in support of civil partnership and I went on to say in that speech that there were other circumstances and other types of families including same sex families and so on and that we needed a mechanism to recognize that, so you always know you are on the right side of an argument when people selectively quote you out of context. Every child does have a mother and father, that’s basic biology and I think every child has right to know how their mother and father is. One of the things we propose to do in the surrogacy legislation, this isn’t regulated in Ireland, one of the things we propose to do is to ban commercial surrogacy for money and ban anonymous donations so every child will have the right to know who their mother and father is, but in the real world things aren’t always that simple and there are lots of one parents families and lots of families already where there is a same sex couple and they have kids, often from a previous marriage, all we’re trying to do in our Constitution with this amendment is to reflect the reality of the real world as it now is in Ireland. It’s not an attempt to change society, just an attempt to reflect it as it is.”
O’Rourke: “Is there anything in this referendum that would prevent you or prevent the Oireachtas at some point in allowing a preference, insofar as practicable, for children who are being adopted to be adopted into a situation where there is a mother and father in the above sense and to give that an added weight when children were being given out for adoption?”
Varadkar: “The amendment isn’t about that it’s not about adoption.”
O’Rourke: “I know but fears have been raised on the last occasion about options being closed off…”
Varadkar: “What’s happening with the Child and Family Bill which [Justice Minister] Frances Fitzgerald will bring before the Dail in the next few months is to allow civil partners to adopt, so it’s already the case that straight and married couples can adopt, single people can adopt, including gay and lesbian single people and this legislation will allow same sex couples and civil partners to adopt so the, so the Referendum will not be about adoption and children, I’ve no doubt people will try to make it about that just as they tried to make the Divorce Referendum about that but when you don’t have a good argument I guess you try to come up with tangential ones. “
O’Rourke: “Are you confident it will be carried given that there’s unanimity against the political parties in the Dail, it would seem, in favour of this measure?”
Varadkar: “I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t take anything at all for granted. Referendums are funny things and we have had two referendums in recent times where the polls were very much telling us it was going to pass, in the case of the Senate one it didn’t, in the case of the Children’s one it barely did, I think in the Children’s Referendum only one TD. in the entire Dail expressed reservations, so, you know, I think sometimes when all the political parties are behind something it makes some people suspicious, you know, even though it shouldn’t but it can do and I think the key thing in the campaign for people who are involved in it really is that it shouldn’t be led by politicians, it should be something that’s led by civil society groups and so on.”
Full Interview here
Previously: Leo’s Family Values
(Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland)