Just over a month after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited recently elected Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Leo Varadkar in Dublin, his Irish counterpart returned the favour with an official visit August 19-22.
The Prime Minister’s Office’s official announcement highlighted the two leaders would take part in the Montreal Pride parade on August 20 and their conversations would focus on “issues related to diversity and inclusion.” The statement also noted trade would be on the agenda.
Varadkar, who is openly gay, marched with his partner Matthew Barrett and Trudeau and his family. He became the first foreign leader to march in a Canadian gay pride parade.
Before the visit, pro-abortion groups had urged Trudeau to raise the topic of abortion with Varadkar, who describes himself as pro-life. Next year, Ireland will hold a referendum on repealing the Irish constitution’s eighth amendment which outlaws all abortion unless a mother’s life is endangered.
Meghan Doherty, global policy and advocacy officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health, urged Trudeau “to talk about women’s rights, reproductive rights, and access to abortion.” She said the Prime Minister “could be quite persuasive with the Irish government to encourage them to be progressive, to respect women’s rights, and to be seen as the modern country that it is.”
During a press conference after their meeting, Varadkar admitted the two talked about abortion. He stated, “I updated the prime minister on our plans to have a referendum on that in Ireland next year to give the people of Ireland the opportunity to remove our constitutional ban on abortion should they wish to do so. The intention is to have that referendum next year, ideally in the first half of year if that can be done.”
Reporters asked Trudeau what advice he’d give to Varadkar ahead of the referendum. He said he encouraged his Irish counterpart to look at abortion “as a fundamental right” and to view “reproductive rights for women (as) integral to women’s rights in general.” He said “we have a very good discussion on that.”