People In The Highest Echelons Of Ireland Are Out At Work


From government ministers to High Court judges, there are people in the highest echelons of public life who are out as gay at work, while concentrating on the job at hand, says Brian Finnegan


A journalist today asked me if I might comment on whether I thought Leo Varadkar would still be fit to be considered for Taoiseach now that he’s come out as gay. To my mind, it’s a stupid question, even if it’s one that’s been on everyone in the media’s lips this morning. What on earth does a person’s sexual orientation have to do with how good or bad they are at their job?

The truth is, of course, that Leo’s coming out was not news to anyone in Fine Gael, or probably the Dáil for that matter. He said so during his interview with Miriam, and like many people in the highest echelons of public life, from Ministers to High Court judges, he has made no bones at work of the fact that he’s gay, while concentrating on the job at hand.

For a member of the cabinet to come out as gay, however, sends a huge message to the public. The message is that our leaders, the people who make decisions that affect our lives, are a more diverse group of people than we might imagine. Gay people are elected and appointed to positions of power too, and it has no effect on whether they can do their jobs properly or not. For someone like High Court judge, Ms Justice Aileen Donnelly, who has acknowledged her female partner since her elevation to the High Court last July, and had her partner acknowledged by the powers that be, I think it’s about being true to yourself while doing the job you have been entrusted to do by society.

Such honesty can only be applauded, and celebrated. Such honesty shows how far we have come as a society in understanding diversity, how far we have travelled in learning to have compassion and respect for our fellow citizens.

I heard this morning about a 62 year-old man who came out to his family after listening to Minister Varadkar’s interview yesterday. I hope that such inspiration spreads. At this time in the history of our country, when the public are being given the serious responsibility to vote on whether certain people deserve to be treated equally under our laws or not, we need more and more gay and lesbian people to be visible, showing they are just like everyone else, that they have the same hopes and dreams, that they take the same social responsibilities, and hold the same commitment to a good, fair and working society, as heterosexual people. They just happen to be gay.



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