THE Irish Health Minister has announced that he is gay during an interview on national radio.

Leo Varadkar’s decision to speak publicly about his sexuality comes as Ireland prepares for marriage equality referendum in May.

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Varadkar also announced he would campaign in support of same-sex marriage in the lead up to the referendum.

According to RTÉ News, the Health Minister stated: “I am a gay man — it’s not a secret — but not something that everyone would necessarily know, but it isn’t something I’ve spoken publicly about before.

“I’d like the referendum to pass because I’d like to be an equal citizen in my own country, that country I happen to be a member of government, and at the moment I’m not.”

Ireland was among the last of current European Union members to decriminalise homosexual activity in the 1990s, and only in 2011 were same-sex couples able to enter a civil partnership, but not marry.

In the interview, which was held on the his 36th birthday, Varadkar said he was not in a relationship and had only recently given time to his personal life.

“It’s only in the last year or two I’ve . . . made time for relationships and other people,” he said.

Varadkar also said there were other reasons, other than just the referendum in May, to his coming out.

In 2015, Ireland will face decisions regarding surrogacy for LGBT parents, and also deciding whether to amend or repeal the ban on blood donations from men who have sex with men.

Varadkar is the second member of Fine Gael, a major political party in Ireland, to come out after Jerry Buttimer announced he was in gay in 2012.

Buttimer has tweeted his support to Varadkar, commenting that he was very proud of him and that he was “glad I’m not the only gay in the village”.

RTÉ News reports that The Gay and Lesbian Equality Network has  “saluted the courage” of Varadkar.

Varadkar, who has been tipped as future prime minister of Ireland, stated that being gay isn’t something that will define him.

“I’m not a half-Indian politician or a doctor politician or a gay politician. It’s just part of who I am,” he said.

Varadkar’s coming out story also made the front pages of the country’s two major newspapers; the Irish Independent and the Irish Times.

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