British actor Sir Ian McKellen has encouraged Northern Ireland to “catch up” on the issue of gay marriage.

After Ireland last month became the first nation to legalize such unions through a referendum, Northern Ireland became the last country in western Europe where gay couples cannot legally marry.

Appearing on BBC Breakfast, McKellen, who is promoting his latest film, Mr. Holmes, discussed the historic vote.

“Whenever the vote came through, that wasn't the big turning point,” he said.

“The turning point had been already happening and this was confirmation that Ireland had changed, and that leads onto the future very well indeed.”

“I hope, as a result, Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, will catch up with the rest of us now and bring in same-gender marriage, because it's rather unseemly that that little corner of our country doesn't have quite as liberal laws as the rest,” McKellen said.

(Related: 20,000 call for marriage equality during Belfast rally.)