Ireland has elected it’s first gay Taoiseach. His father is from India. His mother is from Waterford. He is the first Trinity graduate to be elected Taoiseach. At 38 years of age Leo Varadkar is the youngest Taoiseach to hold the post. This election is global news. It shows that Ireland is a tolerant place. It might help in our trading relationships with India. The response in Ireland shows that we are more interested in Leo’s policies than in his background. People will argue about politics but Leo’s election shows that we are a tolerant people. During the 19th century the run away slave Frederick Douglas was given sanctuary in Ireland. Daniel Ó Connell was a friend of his. Frederick Douglas liked his time in Ireland. The Irish people treated him with respect as a man. Later on Frederick Douglas went back to America. He supported Abraham Lincoln. After the civil war Frederick Douglas supported the rights of women to vote. Our friendliness as a people goes back a long time.
Around the world people are not allowed to develop their talents to their fullest because of the colour of their skin or their religion or because they are women. Discrimination of any sort weakens society.
Normal politics will resume in Ireland. The political debates will be about policy. The election of Leo Varadkar shows Ireland in a positive light in the world. It shows that despite our other problems that we are a kind people. I do think that while Ireland isn’t a great power like the United States we do have a moral authority that gives us leadership in international politics. Ireland has a proud record in the UN since 1955. Ireland has a proud record as peace keepers in trouble spots around the world from the Congo to Lebanon to the Balkins and beyond. Our foreign policy makes us look good internationally. It has benefits for our trading relationships internationally. Ireland with its image as an honest honourable country with a proud neutral tradition opens doors for us internationally. Our agri food sector is dependent on exports. We Irish have a tolerant tradition. It is a tradition that we can be proud of. I hope that we will continue this tradition in the future.
During the Cold War it was easier to be neutral. A neutral country just didn’t support any of the two Superpowers. Now with different powers seeking supremacy the choices that a neutral country faces is more complex. But Ireland as a neutral country should continue to act morally on the world stage. It has served us well in the past. It will serve us well in the future.
John O Brien.