Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, has opened the way for more gay ministers in his Fianna Fail Party, according to gay campaigners

The Taoiseach said he would be “very happy” to see openly gay candidates at the next election in an interview with an Irish gay magazine.

Senator David Norris is the only openly gay member of the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, he said: “No one should be chosen as a candidate because they are gay, but at the same time that fact should not be allowed to hold them back either.

“If there has been a glass ceiling for women in the past, then there has been a bullet-proof glass ceiling for gay men. The Taoiseach’s remarks are very timely and they will help young people considering a career in public life coming forward.”

One name put forward is gay councillor Malcolm Byrne, he told the Irish Examiner, “Fianna Fáil has a strong record on gay rights and I welcome the Taoiseach’s comments, but candidates should be chosen on ability and ability only.”

But Labour justice spokesman Brendan Howlin expressed doubt on Mr Ahern’s claims, “It has always been Labour that has been at the forefront of pushing through social change. We were the ones who pushed for decriminalisation of homosexuality in the negotiations for government in 1992. We also led the campaign for change on divorce, so I find the Taoiseach’s claims for Fianna Fáil a bit strange.”