Ireland’s prime minister Leo Varadkar visited the White House for the second time this Thursday, where he thanked President Trump for easing sanctions on Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which according to the Irish Times helped save hundreds of jobs at a refinery in the city of Limerick. But before the meeting, there was a notable exchange between Varadkar, Ireland’s first openly gay prime minister, and Vice President Mike Pence.
Earlier Thursday, Varadkar attended a breakfast held at Pence’s residence where he gave a short speech describing his quest to get into politics as a young gay man.
“I also knew at the time that I lived in a country where if I tried to be myself at the time it would have broken laws, but today that has all changed,” Varakkar said. “I stand here as the leader of my country, flawed and human, judged by my political actions, and not by my sexual orientation, my skin tone, gender or religious beliefs.”
“We are, after all, all God’s children,” he added.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and his partner, Matt Barrett, arriving for breakfast here at the US Vice President Mike Pence’s residence in Washington. Quite a significant moment… pic.twitter.com/WRZaUwkAuH
— Shane Beatty (@ShaneBeattyNews) March 14, 2019
Footage of Pence’s encounter with Varadkar and his partner Matt Barrett in front of the Vice President’s residence was uploaded to Twitter, showing the VP and his sister making small talk with the pair.
Varadkar can be seen stepping to the side to speak with Pence’s sister, leaving the Vice President to speak with Barrett. Some observers saw the exchange as awkward, given Pence’s well-known evangelical take on issues such as gay marriage.
“I’ve never seen anything as awkward and I love it,” one person tweeted.
Another person thought it was odd that Pence’s sister was present instead of his wife.
That’s Pence’s sister,” a commenter noted. “Mother Pence wasn’t there at all, which says it all.”
Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, recently drew backlash for accepting a teaching job at a private Christian school in Virginia that excludes gay and transgender students and staff members.
In a subsequent speech at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, Varadkar addressed the issue of Brexit.
“Sixteen days from Brexit, the date the UK exits the EU, we need our friends over here in the United States more than ever,” he said. “Our message on this trip is a simple one. We are fully committed to our membership of the EU, and see our place at the heart of the common European home we helped to build.”
“Whatever happens with Brexit, we are sure about our place in the world,” he added. “We know where we are going, and we are confident about the future.”
Watch video of Varadkar’s words to Pence below:
[This article has been updated]
Featured image via screen grab/Twitter