Belfast Telegraph

Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland only a matter of time, says Varadkar

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he believes it is only a matter of time before same-sex marriage is legalised in Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland's first openly gay prime minister was speaking at a breakfast during Belfast's  Pride Festival.

Mr Varadkar said: "It is of course a decision for the Northern Ireland Assembly, but I am confident that like other western European countries they will make that decision in due course."

Police Service of Northern Ireland and Garda officers also joined Mr Varadkar at the event, arriving in a PSNI Land Rover.

For the first time uniformed officers will march in the Pride parade through the city centre.

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said the PSNI's participation in the breakfast and parade "is about inclusion and representation".

"We represent all sections of society. Members of the LGBT community are a marginalised community in Northern Ireland," she said.

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Posted by Belfast Telegraph on Saturday, August 5, 2017

Mrs Gray added that the PSNI's presence at the events might encourage victims of hate crime to come forward and report them.

The Taoiseach said his presence at a breakfast was not an attempt to unsettle anyone who holds a different view on same-sex marriage and conceded its introduction in Northern Ireland was the responsibility of Stormont politicians.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage remains outlawed. The Republic voted to change the law in a watershed 2015 referendum.

It has been one of the sticking points preventing the return of a devolved power-sharing administration at Stormont, with Sinn Fein demanding the Democratic Unionists (DUP) stop blocking changes to the law.

Campaigners have mounted an increasingly vocal bid to overturn the restriction north of the border and 8,000 people are due to parade through Belfast city centre later.

The DUP, Prime Minister Theresa May's partners in government, has used a controversial Stormont voting mechanism to prevent the legalisation of same-sex marriage, despite most Assembly members supporting the move at the last vote.

The DUP rejects any suggestion it is homophobic, insisting it is protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage, and has called for tolerance of what are increasingly minority views.

It does not have enough members in the new Assembly to veto an equal marriage vote on its own, but there is no immediate prospect of the deeply divided administration being restored.

The annual Pride parade attracts thousands of people to Custom House Square in the city centre. Sixty bands are due to take part.

For the first time, representatives of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Garda are  marching in uniform.

 A rainbow Pride flag has been raised at a UK Government building at Stormont for the first time. The flag was raised beside Stormont House on Friday morning to mark the city's Pride festival.

 

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