Irish leader Leo Varadkar marches at Belfast Pride
Out Irish leader Leo Varadkar has marched at Belfast Pride in Northern Ireland.
The Taoiseach (prime minister) of the Republic of Ireland made an unannounced visit to Northern Ireland for Belfast’s annual Pride celebrations on Saturday (August 3).
Varadkar, one of just three openly gay world leaders in office, sent a non-sectarian message of solidarity to the LGBT+ community in the city.
Leo Varadkar: Belfast Pride is ‘the best of Britishness and Irishness’
On Twitter, he wrote: “Biggest march in Northern Ireland is not orange or green, it’s rainbow coloured. This is NI at its best. Best of Britishness and Irishness.”
The leader did not appear to be accompanied by partner Matthew Barrett, a doctor who works in the US.
Addressing the crowd at the event, he said: “I’m glad to be in Belfast. I had a real honour today to walk with Lord Hayward, who along with Conor McGinn put legislation through the Commons and Lords [in the UK Parliament] to bring marriage equality here in a few months’ time.
“What we see today in Belfast is Northern Ireland at its very best. Open, inclusive, diverse, and for everyone.
“Thank you so much, and happy Pride.”
The leader was loudly cheered by the crowd in the city.
Irish leader meets with partner of murdered journalist
Ahead of the march he met with Sara Canning, a vocal LGBT+ rights campaigner and the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.
Varadkar added: “Pleasure to meet Sara Canning in Belfast today to talk about the future.”
Pleasure to meet Sara Canning in Belfast today to talk about the future pic.twitter.com/KGkq5khQ67
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) August 3, 2019
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McKee and Canning were about to get engaged before she was shot dead in April.
It is the second time that Varadkar has paid a visit to Belfast Pride, which has never been attended by a UK head of government.
The visit comes at a key time for the country’s LGBT+ community, with equal marriage set to be extended to Northern Ireland in January, unless a new power-sharing executive is formed beforehand.
Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Conor McGinn, a PinkNews Award winner, successfully pushed an amendment through the UK’s Parliament to extend same-sex marriage.
The region has been without a devolved government since 2016, due to the collapse of power sharing between Sinn Fein and the DUP.