Thursday 27 July 2017

Watch: Leo marches with Pride, and makes promises for future

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with a group of supporters in Dublin City centre Picture: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with a group of supporters in Dublin City centre Picture: Gerry Mooney
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

Pride of place was reserved for our first openly gay Taoiseach as he led the annual LGBT parade in Dublin yesterday in a historic moment watched by the world.

A carnival of colour was on show as an estimated 30,000 people swarmed the city streets.

#WATCH LGBT Pride 2017 LIVE from Dublin

Posted by Independent.ie on Saturday, June 24, 2017

The country's new Taoiseach was clearly the star of the show as he addressed the crowd. Global news organisations sent teams to cover the event.

Mr Varadkar said it wasn't his "first Pride", but pointed out it was the first time a Taoiseach had marched in the annual celebration. "I don't think for a second that my election as Taoiseach made history, it didn't.

Revellers with garda Sarah O’Neill. Picture: RollingNews.ie
Revellers with garda Sarah O’Neill. Picture: RollingNews.ie

"It rather just reflected that our society has changed so much and changed for the better in the last couple of years."

He said he had a personal sense of gratitude to those who "fought the good fight" when it was a difficult thing to be an LGBT activist.

"When Pride started in 1992 only 200 people took to the streets and many of them were derided but over time they grew in numbers, built up a movement - activists, friends and allies - and they made my life possible in a way it might not have been.

"So I don't think I have in any way changed things for you. I think all of you and all of you who are part of this great movement have changed things for me and for tens of thousands of other people and for that I am very grateful."

Grace O’Sullivan soaks up the happy atmosphere. Picture: Gerry Mooney
Grace O’Sullivan soaks up the happy atmosphere. Picture: Gerry Mooney

He pledged that the fight for LGBT rights, human rights and equality would be "stencilled" to his office for as long as he holds power.

"There are three things I want to particularly emphasise for this community. I want to, first of all, take and press for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

"Secondly, in my office as Taoiseach, in my work overseas, I want to defend the rights of LGBT people all over the world. Our rights are under attack and I will use my office for as long as I have it to make that point to countries in international forums.

"And, finally, something I felt very strongly about when I was in the Department of Health was the sexual health strategy we published, and the time absolutely is now to act up to the sexual health challenges that we face."

The Taoiseach, who spent part of his first full week in office holding crucial Brexit talks in Brussels, was flanked by senior Fine Gael figures. Tanaiste Frances Fitzgerald and newly-appointed minister Regina Doherty also joined the carnival.

Many of those taking part said - regardless of personal political affiliation - Mr Varadkar as Taoiseach had sent out a powerful signal worldwide that Ireland was now a much more tolerant place and marked a new era for members of the LGBT community here in the Republic.

Sunday Independent

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