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‘You’re our new couple friends’, Kamala Harris tells Leo Varadkar and partner

US vice president Kamala Harris has told Irish premier Leo Varadkar that she and her husband consider him and his partner their new “couple friends”.

Ms Harris praised Mr Varadkar as a “global” leader, who has been an “extraordinary role model”, during a St Patrick’s Day event in Washington DC.

The Irish premier in turn praised Ms Harris as “courageous” for recent comments in which she called for a ceasefire in Gaza.

The pair had a breakfast meeting at the vice-president’s official residence on Friday morning, ahead of Mr Varadkar’s high-profile White House talks with President Joe Biden.

Kamala Harris speaking
US vice president Kamala Harris had high praise for Leo Varadkar during their breakfast meeting (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar’s partner Matt Barrett and Ms Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff were also in attendance.

She told Mr Varadkar: “Doug and I decided last year that you’re our new couple friends.”

Ms Harris praised the Taoiseach for “leading by example” and housing a Ukrainian refugee from Kyiv in his home.

“Under your leadership, Ireland has hosted one of the highest per capita populations of Ukrainian refugees, a testament to the generosity and the compassion of the Irish people,” she said.

Ms Harris said Mr Varadkar was “courageous in the fight for women’s reproductive freedom” and praised him for being the first Taoiseach to attend the Munich Security Conference, which the US vice president also attended.

She said: “On a personal note, Taoiseach, you have been an extraordinary role model for people all around the world as one of the only openly LGBT leaders in history, and you so graciously talked last year here about the work that you and I have done to support and fight for the rights of (the LGBT community).”

Ms Harris said Mr Varadkar had also worked in the early part of his career to “strengthen the ties” with the Irish diaspora.

“America has, of course, served as a place of hope for millions of Irish immigrants and their descendants, including those who have held the highest offices in our land, and currently, of course, our president, Joe Biden,” she said.

In response, Mr Varadkar said he understands the difficulties of being deputy leader of a country, and added he finds being the leader “a little bit easier”.

Leo Varadkar and partner with Kamala Harris and husband
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and partner Matt Barrett, left, with US vice-president Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar explained how he went from Taoiseach, or Irish prime minister, to Tanaiste, or deputy prime minister, before returning to the role of Taoiseach at the end of 2022.

“I’m not going to lie, I know which one I prefer,” he said, prompting laughs from those present. “I do even find it a little bit easier, even when it’s hard.”

He said the best vice presidents are the “trailblazers” who “spoke from the heart”.

He added: “I believe you, madam vice president, showed great courage and leadership in recent weeks, when you spoke publicly in favour of a ceasefire in Gaza.

“I’m sure it can’t have been easy but it was the right thing to do and your words echoed all over the world.”