Minister Alex White was in Moscow for the St Patrick’s Day Parade, held at Sokolniki Park in central Moscow on Saturday, 15 March.

Minister White was also a guest of the Irish Business Club at the charity Emerald Ball on Saturday evening.

The Minister received an excellent briefing from three NGO representatives on Monday morning, including one of the six LGBTI organisations in Russia, on issues of most concern to them.

Minister White affirmed his support for the work of these organisations (International Crisis Group, Russian LGBT Sport Federation and Amnesty International)

He highlighted the deep interest and concern expressed by people in Ireland about the difficulties currently facing civil society in Russia, and undertook to stay in close touch on these issues. He said:

“Ireland has made LGBTI rights a Human Rights priority and is firmly committed to combating discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“The Irish Government is on record as having expressed Ireland’s strong disagreement with the legislation that was adopted by the Russian Parliament in June 2013.

“In our view, such legislation, while purporting to protect young people, is more likely to result in the further stigmatisation and, indeed, criminalisation of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex young people.

“Eamon Gilmore, the Irish Deputy Prime Minister/Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade raised concerns over the Russian legislation at a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over lunch at the December EU Foreign Affairs Council.”

Minister White had a strongly business-oriented programme, which involves the St Patrick’s Day reception on Monday, meetings with Irish business community representatives, two food promotion events, and a meeting with the Local Market Team comprised of the Embassy and the State agencies present in the market.

He also visited a Tourism Ireland outdoor photographic exhibition in central Moscow

Approximately 20,000 Russians visited Ireland last year and this figure is set to grow even further.

Minister White is meeting on Tuesday 18 March with his Russian Ministry of Health counterpart, Vice Minister Mr Dmitry Kostennikov, to discuss issues directly related to his portfolio.