Taoiseach to attend gay Pride event in Belfast

Taoiseach to attend gay Pride event in Belfast
Leo Varadkar at a Dublin Pride event this year.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to attend a gay Pride event in Belfast on Saturday.

Mr Varadkar confirmed he will be at a Pride breakfast to promote the rights of the LGBT community.

However he will not be attending the annual Pride march through the city centre as he will be travelling to the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship quarter-final between Dublin and Monaghan.

On Friday, the Taoiseach will make his first visit to Northern Ireland to meet with political leaders since taking over from Enda Kenny in June.

While in the North he will take the opportunity to attend a Pride breakfast on Saturday morning .

His attendance at the Pride event is likely to annoy the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which is opposed to same-sex marriage.

However, Mr Varadkar said he would not be making any compromises for anyone.

"I will attend the Pride breakfast on Saturday morning in Belfast to express my support for equality before the law for Catholics, Protestants, non-religious people, men, women, gay people and straight people," he said.

"And I won't be making any compromises about that for anyone really."

The Rainbow Project, an LGBT support group in Northern Ireland, said Mr Varadkar's attendance at Saturday morning's Pride breakfast "is a testament to how far social attitudes have changed on this island".

Project director John O'Doherty added: "We hope that it will not be long before the consensus on LGBT equality which has been achieved in the Republic is mirrored in all parts of this island."

In June the Taoiseach, who revealed he was gay ahead of the Republic's 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, is believed to have angered Arlene Foster's party when he said the DUP should stop using a controversial Stormont voting tactic to block the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK and Ireland where same-sex marriage remains outlawed.

The DUP has used the voting mechanism to prevent a law change, despite a majority of MLAs supporting the move at the last vote.

Commenting on the issue at the time, Mr Varadkar said that during a meeting with Mrs Foster he expressed his "very strong view that marriage equality should be permitted in Northern Ireland".

Privately the DUP were angered at what they perceived as the Taoiseach interfering in the North's internal affairs.

Uniformed officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland are due to participate in this year's Belfast Pride march for the first time.

Garda officers have also been invited to join them.


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