Irish leader Leo Varadkar has marched with his partner Matt in New York St Patrick’s Day Parade – which until recently banned LGBT groups from participating in the event.
Ireland’s out Taoiseach (prime minister) has been a trip to the US for St Patrick’s Day, already raising LGBT rights with Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Due to the strong influence of conservative Catholic groups, the parade had maintained a decades-long ban on LGBT groups. It slowly lifted the rule in 2016 and 2017, under pressure from commercial sponsors.
Mr Varadkar held hands with his partner Matt Barrett, a doctor who currently lives in the US, as they walked together in the parade.
Mr Varadkar acknowledged: “It was a real privilege to march with my partner. Only a few years ago people couldn’t march under the rainbow banner, but that has all changed.
“Ireland has embraced diversity and inclusiveness, and Irish Americans in New York have embraced that too.”
Ahead of the parade, Mr Varadkar told media: “On a personal level it’s a real privilege to be here in New York, in a city that is so close to Ireland in so many different ways.
“I had a chance to meet the Mayor [Bill de Blasio] earlier and attend Mass, and I’m going to be able to march in the parade now with my partner which is something that is a sign, I think, of change, a sign of great diversity, not just in Ireland, but in the community here as well.”
Two gay men as guests of honour sent a powerful message, just two years on from a bitter feud over LGBT participants.