Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will attend Belfast gay pride breakfast
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has confirmed he will will attend a gay pride breakfast in Belfast on Saturday.
On Friday the Fine Gael leader will make his first trip north since succeeding Enda Kenny in June.
The new taoiseach will speak at Queen's University before meeting the DUP and some of Stormont's other parties.
But rather than returning to Dublin Mr Varadkar will spend the night in Belfast.
With the city set to host the annual Pride march to promote LGBT rights on Saturday, the taoiseach has confirmed he will attend a pride breakfast but is unable to join the parade due to an engagement.
Mr Varadkar said this morning that his attendance is intended to show support for equality, for Catholics, Protestants, non religious people, men, women, gay people and straight.
Such a gesture would be enthusiastically welcomed by the north's gay community but would likely cause anger among unionists – especially the DUP, which remains opposed to same-sex marriage.
The Rainbow Project, an LGBT support group, said Mr Varadkar's attendance at the breakfast "is a testament to how far social attitudes have changed on this island".
Project director John O'Doherty added: "We hope that it will not be long before the consensus on LGBT equality which has been achieved in the Republic is mirrored in all parts of this island."
The Republic's former health minister, who revealed he is gay ahead of the south's 2015 same-sex marriage referendum, attended Dublin's Pride parade shortly after his confirmation as taoiseach
Addressing the crowd in June, Mr Varadkar said: "I pledge as taoiseach to use my office, for as long as I hold it, to advance the cause of LGBT rights, to press for marriage equality across Ireland, to speak up for LGBT rights around the world where they are under attack, and to push for the implementation of the sexual health strategy here at home at a time when it is more important than ever.
"I don't think my election as taoiseach actually made history, it just reflected it, reflected the enormous changes that had already occurred in our country."
The PSNI has confirmed that officers in uniform will participate in this year's Belfast Pride march for the first time, with Garda officers also invited to join them.