Irish senator David Norris has said that both Northern Ireland and the Republic are “nearly there” on gay rights legislation.

Mr Norris, a human rights campaigner who was the first out gay person to be elected to public office in Ireland, is to speak at the Amnesty International Belfast Pride lecture tonight.

He recently announced he intends to stand for the Irish presidency.

Speaking ahead of tonight’s lecture, Mr Norris praised the recent passage of a civil partnerships bill in Ireland, calling it a “very significant advance”.

“It was a victory, not for gay people, but rather a victory for decency and for this country as a whole,” he said.

“It is clear that we are very nearly there in terms of the accomplishment of full human and civil rights of gay people in Ireland, both north and south. But we are not there yet.”

He continued: “Despite such victories, sadly there is still prejudice against the gay community – including among those active in public life in Northern Ireland. We must continue to work to ensure human rights for all people and to educate others that equality is a right not a threat.

“It is crucial that we do not shed our concerns for others throughout the world who live in less favourable circumstances and whose sexual orientation places them every day in danger of being murdered, either by members of the public or by their governments.”

Belfast Pride begins this weekend with a march on Saturday 31st.

The Amnesty International Belfast Pride lecture, will take place at 6:30pm tonight at the Europa Hotel, Belfast. The event is free of charge.