Everything we know about Leo Varadkar’s partner Dr Matthew Barrett as the taoiseach steps down

Irish leader Leo Varadkar stepped down as taoiseach on Wednesday 20 March 2024 in a move that was described as “sudden” and “shocking” by some. He has led the Fine Gael party since 2017 and served as taoiseach twice. But who is his partner?

Leo Varadkar made history when he became Ireland’s first ever openly gay taoiseach in 2017 after he won the leadership of Fine Gael, a centre-right political party.

Asked about “who or what” is the greatest love of his life to Irish website RSVP, Leo Varadkar named his long-term partner: “I guess that is Dr Matthew Barrett – even though we annoy each other a lot of the time, we’ve experienced life together and grown closer together, and I hope we’ll spend many more years together.”

Dr Matthew Barrett is a consultant cardiologist. Mr Varadkar and Dr Barrett have been together since 2015, the same year he came out as gay. Leo Varadkar sent shockwaves through Ireland’s political system when he came out live on radio in the lead-up to the country’s marriage equality referendum.

Discussing whether they planned to have children, in a personal interview with the Irish Mail on Sunday in 2022, the then-taoiseach said: “I’ve never considered it, so for the foreseeable future anyway, it’s just the two of us and we’ve had a very good life and good relationship and lots of really good friends, so we’re definitely not ready for a family.”

Leo Varadkar Matthew Barrett
Matthew Barrett (L) and Leo Varadkar (R). (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty)

In 2021, the couple were forced to move out of their house after receiving “homophobic” death threats from the far right. They reportedly advised to leave their home in Castleknock, Dublin, by Ireland’s police force as threats escalated and moved to a more secure location.

You may like to watch

Neale Richmond, a politician in Varadkar’s Fine Gael party, told the Sunday Independent that he was aware of the “unnerving” death threats.

Richmond acknowledged that Varadkar has been targeted with “homophobic death threats” and “racist death threats” over the years.

New York St Patrick’s Day Parade

In 2018, Leo Varadkar and his partner marched in New York St Patrick’s Day Parade – which had previously banned LGBTQ+ groups.

Due to the strong influence of conservative Catholic groups, the parade had previously maintained a decades-long ban on LGBTQ+ groups. It slowly lifted the rule in 2016 and 2017, under pressure from commercial sponsors.

Leo Varadkar held hands with his partner as they walked together in the parade.

Barrett had previously eschewed many of the traditional roles associated with a leader’s partner or spouse, but appeared happy to support his boyfriend at the event.

Mr Varadkar acknowledged: “It was a real privilege to march with my partner. Only a few years ago people couldn’t march under the rainbow banner, but that has all changed.

“Ireland has embraced diversity and inclusiveness, and Irish Americans in New York have embraced that too.”

The leader also paid a visit to the Stonewall Inn – the birthplace of the modern LGBTQ+ rights movement ahead of the march.

He wrote: “My first visit to the Stonewall monument. Really proud to be here #StPatricksDay”

Ahead of the parade, Mr Varadkar told media: “On a personal level it’s a real privilege to be here in New York, in a city that is so close to Ireland in so many different ways.

“I had a chance to meet the Mayor [Bill de Blasio] earlier and attend Mass, and I’m going to be able to march in the parade now with my partner which is something that is a sign, I think, of change, a sign of great diversity, not just in Ireland, but in the community here as well.”

Two gay men as guests of honour sent a powerful message.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, Cardinal Timothy Dolan and Prime Minister of Ireland Leo Varadkar attend the 2018 New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Due to the anti-gay policy, Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio had shunned the parade every year since his election – and the event had also faced a large commercial boycott and protests over the exclusion of LGBTQ+ groups.

Mayor de Blasio took part for the first time in 2016 after the ban was relaxed, saying: “The St Patrick’s Day parade is a New York City tradition, but for years Irish LGBT New Yorkers could not show their pride.

“Finally, they can celebrate their heritage by marching in a parade that now represents progress and equality.”

Elsewhere on his trip, Mr Varadkar ended up alone in a room with Mike Pence.

In a break from political convention, media were banned from the former Vice President’s meeting with Mr Varadkar.

LGBTQ+ rights groups suspected that the reporting ban was put in place by the former VP to avoid him being called out publicly on his anti-LGBTQ+ record.

A hardline evangelical who had not, at that point, supported a single LGBTQ+ reform across nearly two decades in politics, Pence has one of the worst records on equality of any US leader since Ronald Reagan.

United States Vice President Mike Pence looks on as Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland speaks during the Shamrock Bowl Presentation at the White House on March 15, 2018 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Edelman-Pool/Getty Images)

Leo Varadkar wasn’t able to discuss very much after the meeting, but he said that the Vice President had expressed an interest in meeting his partner Matt, who at the time lived and worked in Chicago.

Mr Varadkar continued: “They were very well briefed.

“They knew about my personal story, they knew that my partner was living in Chicago, and they said that both Matt and I would both be welcome to visit their home in future, so I thought that was a very nice gesture.

“There are so many ifs and maybes, first of all I have to survive another year in my current office and secondly, Matt is not terribly keen to attend official functions but you never know.”