This weekend there are special events in Northern Ireland to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the decriminalisation of gay male relationships.

Thirty years ago Jeff Dudgeon, a shipping clerk and gay rights activist in Belfast, successfully challenged the criminalisation of sexual relations between men at the European Court of Human Rights, having first complained to the European Commission of Human Rights in 1975.

He forced the UK government to make Northern Ireland bring its laws into line with the rest of England, Wales and Scotland in 1982.

To commemorate the 30th anniversary Mr Dudgeon has been the guest of honour at a celebratory dinner in Belfast this evening.

On Sunday, he will be the speaker at a cross-community 30th anniversary service, arranged by Changing Attitude Ireland, the country’s LGBT Christian group, at St George’s church, High Street, Belfast at 3pm.

Earlier this year, as part of the New Year Honours, Mr Dudgeon was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for “services to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community in Northern Ireland”.

Equality campaigners have pointed to the irony of this week’s landmark anniversary.

On Thursday, it was reported that the country’s Attorney General John Larkin had been criticised by his Scottish counterpart Lord Wallace for suggesting that Northern Ireland and other EU regions should be allowed to opt-out of providing gay couples with adoption rights.

Also earlier this month, the movement for marriage equality in Northern Ireland suffered a bitter blow after the Stormont Assembly narrowly voted against supporting the measure.