Irish leader Leo Varadkar says people have the ‘right to offend’ while speaking about homophobic abuse

Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar

Ireland’s Leo Varadkar has spoken about facing homophobic abuse.

The Irish Taioseach (prime minister), one of just a handful of out world leaders, opened up about his own experience of homophobic abuse.

Leo Varadkar says he has experienced ‘name-calling on the street’.

He said on Friday: “If you’re a gay man or a gay woman you do experience a degree of homophobia. It’s just the way it is.

“I never experienced any violence, thankfully, but it can certainly range from name-calling and things like that as you walk down the street or it can be the kind of stuff you can see for yourself online or it can be just the fact that people treat you differently.”

The leader, who is of Indian heritage, added: “If you’re mixed race and if you’re a person of colour, you do experience a degree of racism and discrimination.”

Leo Varadkar

Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar (Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images)

According to the Irish Independent, he told reporters: “I’ve a good life. I’ve done well.

“I’ve very little to complain about, much less so than other people who I’m sure have experienced the kind of racism I’ve never had to, or the kind of homophobia I’ve managed to avoid.

“So I don’t like to engage in complaining about it or any self-pity because I think that’s disrespectful to those who’ve experienced the kind of racism I could never imagine.”

Taioseach: People have the right to offend.

However, the leader said there was a need to “balance” hate crime laws with freedom of speech.

Varadkar said: “Sometimes, people need to be offended and people have the right to offend them. We have to get that balance right.

“There is, of course, a huge difference between saying something nasty and unpleasant and something that incites violence or hatred. But writing that down in law is a tricky piece of work and I’m not sure anyone has got it perfectly right anywhere in the world.

“But we do need to try, because what’s happening now — particularly online when it comes to fomenting hate — is really wrong.”

Varadkar has used his platform several times to further awareness of LGBT+ issues, even raising the subject with Pope Francis during his visit to Ireland in August 2018.

The leader previously said he would love to discuss equal rights with Russian President Vladimir Putin.