Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Pride parade is Northern Ireland at its best, Leo Varadkar says

The Irish premier joined tens of thousands of people as they made their way through the city centre.

Crowds watch the Belfast Pride parade (Niall Carson/PA)
Crowds watch the Belfast Pride parade (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before the start of the Belfast Pride parade (Niall Carson/PA)

Irish premier Leo Varadkar has said that Northern Ireland’s biggest parade is not orange or green, but “rainbow-coloured”.

The Taoiseach made the comments as he attended Belfast’s Pride parade for the first time.

Mr Varadkar joined tens of thousands of people as they made their way through the city centre.

His presence will be seen as significant as same-sex marriage remains a contentious political issue in Northern Ireland.

Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade.
Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Pacemaker Press 03-08-2019: Belfast flooded with colour for Pride parade. Thousands of people have turned out in Belfast for the annual Pride parade. Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar is attending the march. Billed as a celebration of the city's LGBT community and as a protest calling for equality, the parade set off from Custom House Square at 13:00 BST and will go through the city centre. A rainbow Pride flag was flown from Belfast City Hall for the first time. Lord Mayor John Finucane said it was "hugely significant". Picture By: Arthur Allison: Pacemaker
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - PSNI officers join marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - PSNI officers join marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - PSNI officers join marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - PSNI officers join marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 3rd August 2018 - Marchers and members of the public pictured at the annual Belfast Pride parade in Belfast City Centre. Belfast Pride is billed as a celebration of the city's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community and as a protest calling for equality. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Mr Varadkar’s visit comes two years after he attended a Pride breakfast to promote the rights of the LGBT community.

Ireland’s first openly gay premier was not able to attend the parade that year as he had other official engagements.

In June last year, after meeting with senior leaders of the Orange Order and representatives of the two main communities in Belfast, he stopped for a pint in the city’s popular gay bar, The Maverick, where he spoke to staff and a number of customers.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244459383
Crowds watch the Belfast Pride parade (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Varadkar also joined 60,000 people in Dublin for its Pride march in June this year.

Addressing a huge crowd that gathered in Custom House Square, Mr Varadkar said the Pride parade is Northern Ireland “at its best”.

“Open, inclusive, diverse and for everyone,” he said.

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar poses for a photo with PSNI officers ahead of the start of the Pride parade in Dublin. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar poses for a photo with PSNI officers ahead of the start of the Pride parade in Dublin. Credit: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill (right) takes part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People go home after watching the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Pride parade passes the Oscar Wilde statue in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
A dog takes part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather to watch the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People gather to watch the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Pride parade passes the GPO on Dublin's O'Connell Street. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (front row second right) takes part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Mr. Gay World takes part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
People take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Marian Lynch, from Cork, and her granddaughter Emma O'Sullivan, from Kerry, take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill (left) with bus driver Stephen McEvoy the start of the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Inspector Jaiye Warwick-Saunders of the Metropolitan police takes part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Barbara Doyle, from Coolock, with her macaw's Quinn (left) and Rosie as they take part in the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
'Panti Bliss' aka Rory O'Neill at the start of the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (second right) with Garda Commissioner Drew Harris (right) minister for justice Charlie Flanagan (left) and minister for finance Paschal Donohoe ahead of the start of the Pride parade in Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday June 29, 2019. See PA story IRISH Pride. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

“I want to say how great it is to be in Belfast today.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244459386
Drag artists take part in this year’s event (Niall Carson/PA)

“I always say the biggest parade that happens in Northern Ireland isn’t orange or green, it’s rainbow-coloured. It’s really great to see it today.

“I had a real honour today to walk with Lord Hayward, who, along with Conor McGinn, put the legislation through the Commons and Lords to bring about marriage equality here in a few months’ time. So, we really want to thank them.

“Thank you so much and happy Pride.”

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where gay marriage is illegal.

That could change, however, after landmark legislation was passed by the UK Parliament which will allow same-sex marriage in the region if devolution is not restored by October 21.

The changes will not come into effect if Northern Ireland’s two main parties, Sinn Fein and the DUP, can reach an agreement to form a new Executive before the deadline.

Talks have been ongoing since May after journalist and gay rights campaigner Lyra McKee was shot dead while she was reporting on riots in Londonderry in April.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244459048
Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane at the start of the parade (Niall Carson/PA)

Belfast Lord Mayor John Finucane led the parade, which he said is one of the highlights of his year as mayor.

On Friday the Sinn Fein councillor received the first Pride flag that was flown from City Hall.

The rainbow flag was delivered down Belfast Lough on a flotilla of boats blasting their horns to cheers from onlookers on the banks on Friday evening.

Mr Finucane helped erect the flag at City Hall early on Saturday morning.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244459256
Mr Varadkar poses for a photo (Niall Carson/PA)

It is the first time a Pride flag has flown from the landmark building.

Belfast’s first-ever Pride parade was in 1991.

Mr Finucane said: “This is a great day in Belfast and for the first time we are marching under the Pride flag which flies over City Hall.

“We were delighted to be joined by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. I think he is showing solidarity with Belfast Pride and along with 70,000 other people, we are sending a very powerful, positive and strong message from Belfast today.”

The theme of this year’s parade was “rights now”, to highlight the rights demanded by the LGBTQ community.

Among the tens of thousands of participants were members of the PSNI, An Garda Siochana, Ulster Rugby, BBC Pride, Ulster Bank and Antrim GAA club.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244459049
Two men in costume wait for the beginning of the festivities (Niall Carson/PA)

Meanwhile, the head of BBC Northern Ireland addressed the “confusion” around staff members attending Belfast Pride saying the broadcaster is not participating corporately.

The BBC has faced questions over impartiality since announcing staff in the organisation’s BBC Pride group would be attending the event.

A memo to workers issued last week said staff would be participating in the annual Pride parade wearing BBC-branded T-shirts.

A statement also mentioned BBC Northern Ireland in the context of employees taking part.

BBC NI director Peter Johnston acknowledged there had been “confusion” about the “terms and basis for BBC staff involvement in the Belfast Pride parade 2019”.

bpanews_53e85ccd-e6d4-4c51-a9e1-9986f05c7e92_embedded244458961
A drag artist’s costume bears the words ‘Oct 21’ – the date when equal marriage could become law in Northern Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

He said while members of the BBC Pride staff network – an employee-led initiative – would be taking part, BBC NI as a corporate body would not.

“We know that there are legislative issues specific to Northern Ireland in relation to same-sex marriage,” he said.

“The BBC’s editorial guidelines provide clear advice in this regard. It is on this basis that BBC NI will not be involved corporately in the Belfast Pride parade and that individual programme brands will not be represented.”

Ulster Television (UTV) staff members also taking part in Belfast Pride for the third time on Saturday.

PA

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph