Leo Varadkar warns Ireland can’t take LGBT+ progress ‘for granted’ as Britain backslides

Leo Varadkar gestures with his hands

Deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has warned Ireland to not take LGBT+ progress “for granted” as Britain back peddles under Boris Johnson.

Tánaiste Varadkar told the national independent radio station Newstalk that Britain and America are textbook examples of queer rights being eroded.

“Ireland’s just become so much better a place, so much more welcoming, so much more diverse, so much more tolerant,” the leader of the Fine Gael party said.

Citing how Ireland legalised marriage equality in 2015, Varadkar described the country as having undergone a “social revolution”.

Since the 1990s, he said, Ireland has slowly shed its more regressive laws, such as allowing divorce following a narrowly-won referendum.

Looking at Britain, however, Varadkar said that Johnson’s repeated potshots against trans people show how the nation is stymying LGBT+ rights.

“When we see what else is happening around the world, western Europe is a beacon of progress in that regard,” he explained.

“We see things like abortion rights being rolled back now in the United States for example.

“Boris Johnson having a bit of a go at trans people, maybe hoping that will curry favour in certain sections, which is a bit sad.”

Leo Varadkar speaks at a panel at the Berlin congress

Leo Varadkar speaks at a panel at the Berlin congress of the European People’s Party. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

The British government has confirmed that a long-promised, trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy is being scrapped. Instead, ministers will ban practices that seek to change sexuality only.

The move prompted more than 120 LGBT+ organisations and HIV campaign groups to pull out of the government’s flagship LGBT+ conference, Safe To Be Me, resulting in its cancellation.

On Wednesday (6 April), health secretary Sajid Javid said that the government excluding trans people is part of a more “sensitive approach“.

Only hours later, Johnson doubled down on the ban, stressing that legislating the ban is “complex” and still needs to be “worked out” despite how the majority of British health bodies say the practice in its entirety needs to be prohibited.

It comes as Britain has plummeted in the rankings of most LGBT-friendly nations in Europe.

“I think we forget how oppressive it was as recently as 2000 when people had such fixed views and judgements about how men should behave and how women should behave,” Varakdar added.

“What people should do and how they should live their lives and that’s changed so fundamentally.

“But [it’s] something we certainly can’t take for granted.“And even some of the stuff coming from Putin in relation to the war now and coming from the Russian Orthodox Church – it’s fairly homophobic quite frankly.

“And I don’t think we should take the freedoms that we’ve won for granted and we should remember – imperfect as we are – what a beacon we are for liberty in Europe – in the European Union in particular.”