Taoiseach promises 'to speak up for LGBT rights around the world' at Dublin Pride Parade

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has promised to push for LGBT rights in Ireland and around the world in his speech at the Dublin Pride Parade today.

Around 30,000 people took part in the parade and the Taoiseach promised them that under his leadership, Ireland "will be the voice for toleration, respect and equality around the world".

Mr Varadkar, who is Ireland's first openly gay head of Government, marched near the front of the parade which left St Stephen's Green at 2pm before finishing up in Smithfield.

There are also a number of other parades taking place across the country in place such as Cork, Galway, Limerick and Foyle in County Derry.

In his speech, Mr Varadkar asked participants to remember Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, the wife of Katherine Zappone, who died almost two weeks ago.

The Taoiseach said: "The day I became Taoiseach was also a sad day. It was the same day a great champion of freedom and equality in this country passed away.

Dr Ann Louise Gilligan and KatherineZappone.

"I know all of us were deeply saddened to hear of the death of Dr Ann Louise Gilligan, a brilliant academic and community leader, whose courage helped change the laws in this country.

"Our thoughts are with Ann Louise’s wife, Katherine, at this time. Together they have been an inspiration to so many people in this country, and around the world."

He described his tenure of the Taoiseach's role so far as a whirlwind and vowed to fight for equality while in his job.

He said: "I pledge as Taoiseach to use my office, for as long as I hold it, to advance the cause of LGBT rights, to press for marriage equality across Ireland, to speak up for LGBT rights around the world where they are under attack, and to push for the implementation of the sexual health strategy here at home at a time when it is more important than ever.

"In 1992 RTE estimated that the number of people at this parade was 200. Ten years later the figure was 6,000. In 2012 it was 30,000.

"If someone had predicted back in 1992 that one year later homosexuality would be decriminalised, or that 23 years later gay and lesbian people would be legally able to marry the person they love, or that two years after that a gay man would be elected Taoiseach of the country, then I think they would actually have been derided. So history can be slow to move, but when it does move it moves very quickly."

However, he urged people to celebrate the fact that Ireland is a country where people have democracy and just happens to have a Taoiseach who is gay.

He said: "So, I don’t really ask anyone to celebrate the fact that we have a Taoiseach who is a gay man. But rather we should celebrate the fact that we live in a free country - in a democracy where we have a Taoiseach who happens to be gay.

"We are able to support or criticise him, due to our own beliefs and principles which, to me, is true freedom.

"And speaking of freedom - under my leadership this country won’t shirk our responsibilities on the international stage and we will be the voice for toleration, respect and equality around the world."

He finished by acknowledging the gay Pride movement for the progress that has been made for equal rights in Ireland.

He said: "When we look back on all that has happened in this country over the past few years, all the progress that has been made, remember that this was not due to any one person.

"It was because of a movement, a movement made up of you and your friends and your families and supporters.

"I don’t think my election as Taoiseach actually made history, it just reflected it, reflected the enormous changes that had already occurred in our country.

"So, I don’t think that I have changed things for you; I think people like you have changed things for me."

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