Northern Ireland

Belfast Pride: Rainbow flag flies at Stormont House

Pride flag at Stormont House Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Stormont House is Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire's base in the grounds of Stormont estate

A rainbow gay pride flag has flown at a Stormont government building for the first time.

The flag was raised beside Stormont House on Friday morning to mark Belfast's Pride festival on Saturday.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire approved the flying of the flag.

The move comes amid the continued deadlock over Northern Ireland's ban on same-sex marriage.

It also coincides with the first official visit of Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar to Northern Ireland.

Mr Varadkar is the Republic of Ireland's first openly gay taoiseach and will attend a pride festival breakfast event on Saturday morning.

Thousands of people are expected to take part in the main Belfast Pride parade on Saturday afternoon.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Leo Varadkar is Ireland's first openly gay taoiseach

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still banned.

The issue is one of the major stumbling blocks in the ongoing Stormont crisis, with Sinn Féin demanding that the DUP stop blocking a law change.

Before the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed in January, the DUP had used a Stormont veto known as a petition of concern to block motions to change the law on same-sex marriage.

The party has rejected accusations that it is homophobic and said that it is protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

Stormont House is Mr Brokenshire's base within the grounds of the wider Stormont estate.

He said that while same-sex marriage was a matter for devolved government at Stormont, he hoped that the law would change.

"I voted for equal marriage in England and Wales and, like the prime minister, hope this can be extended to Northern Ireland in the future," he said.

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