The Irish government is working with gay community workers to establish a network of LGBT youth groups across the country.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is developing the programme with Belong To, a Dublin project that has been running for the past four years.

The project’s national co-ordinator said that numbers of young gay people between 14 and 23 attending the group has doubled every year.

Belong To, with the support of the Departments of Education and Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, now plan to open youth groups across Ireland.

“We have seen the numbers of young people attending our groups in Dublin more than double each year, with many young people travelling from various parts of the country every week,” Michael Barron, Belong To’s national co-ordinator, told the Irish Times.

“This is an amazing testament to the bravery and confidence of LGBT young people in Ireland, but it has also highlighted the urgent need for more services, especially outside Dublin.

“As seen through the work and growth of the project, LGBT young people are increasingly able to come out to their families and friends, they are more aware of their rights and are more confident in their identities.

“It has been a great pleasure for us to witness this, which I feel reflects a greater openness in Irish society more generally.”

Irish society’s attitude to homosexuality has been transformed since decriminalisation in 1993. All the leading political parties support some form of civil partnership.

The country’s Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, welcomed the scheme:

“It is really important that all young people have access to the supports and services that they need,” she told the Irish Times.

“Belong To has done a wonderful job providing some of these supports and services to LGBT young people through their Dublin office, and I am pleased that this will be enhanced through their new regional presence.”