The first out gay and youngest Prime Minister in the Republic of Ireland’s history has said it is “only a matter of time” before Northern Ireland gets same-sex marriage.
Leo Varadkar spoke at a Belfast Pride breakfast event this morning.
He said he had attended the event as a “gesture of solidarity”, and referred to the fact that Northern Ireland is the only place in the UK where same-sex marriage is not legal.
Speaking outside the Northern Whig in Belfast, Varadkar said he was not “here to unsettle anyone”.
He added: “But I am here to state my support and my government’s support for equality before the law and individual freedom for all citizens wherever they may reside.
“Difference makes us stronger and that’s something I believe in and something that I think can mark Northern Ireland out in the future.
“I totally appreciate that this it is an issue for the Northern Ireland Assembly, but we need an assembly up and running.”
Free Presbyterians protested across the street from where the taoiseach was speaking.
The DUP, which has continually used peace process measures to block the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the Northern Irish Assembly did not raise objections to Varadkar’s appearance.
The Irish Prime Minister said he had raised his concerns with the leader of the DUP Arlene Foster, whose party formed a UK Government with the Conservatives after the general election this year.
Earlier this week he insisted his plans to attend the Pride event in Northern Ireland were not meant to “unsettle anyone”.
He said previously, of raising the issue: “I met with Arlene Foster and the DUP last week in Dublin, and at that meeting I expressed my very strong view that marriage equality should be permitted in Northern Ireland.
“The majority of people in Northern Ireland want that, the majority of members in the Northern Ireland Assembly want that, and I expressed very clearly my view that the Petition of Concern mechanism should not be used to block marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
“As you can appreciate, Arlene Foster and the DUP have a different view on this matter. They made me aware of their views.
“There wasn’t a meeting of the minds on this issue, but I will certainly continue to raise it.”