Thousands take part in first Dublin Pride parade in three years as message of defiance and protest remains

‘We have a lot to do yet. We cannot become complacent’, Taoiseach tells crowd in city’s Merrion Square

From a stage in Merrion Square, as thousands of people draped in rainbow flags completed Dublin’s first Pride parade in three years, Taoiseach Micheál Martin hit all the right notes.

A day after two people were shot dead outside an Oslo gay bar, and following recent attacks in Ireland, an unwelcome tinge of intolerance loitered around Saturday’s festivities, defiant in colour and carnival atmosphere.

“We have a lot to do yet. We cannot become complacent,” Martin said to the first of several outbursts of applause and whistles. He spoke about forthcoming legislation on hate crime, ridding society of so-called conversion therapies and of the need to rethink how young people are educated. These are themes critical to many who attended the first march since Covid-19 forced a two-year hiatus.

“I want to say to our trans community in particular, we need space and we need to facilitate informed, open, inclusive acceptance, understanding, in terms of our trans community for its proper debate in a proper context,” he said. “We do not need divisive debate in this country on issues like that, we do not need it. We need tolerance and a celebration of diversity.”

The return of Pride was overwhelmingly a celebration but its message of protest and defiance remained strong. Thousands took part in the event as it made its way through Dublin city centre.

“It doesn’t feel like a protest, but it is in the way that it’s important that we’re here. It’s important that there is that visibility,” said Fillip Holgersen (23) from Leixlip who was attending his first parade.

Watching the passing colour on Westland Row, his friend Carolinne Cordeiro (26) recalled the last parade where, in more or less the same spot, anti-Pride demonstrators stood by.

“There were people in the sidewalks with protest saying very bad stuff and sometimes religious things against gay people,” Carolinne Cordeiro said. “[Pride] is about a lot of things I think. It’s a protest in a way, it’s also about being proud for who we are. For the people we have.”

The event began at the Garden of Remembrance and wound its way across the River Liffey and on towards Merrion Square, where a lavish party began in sunshine and rain showers.

The crowds delivered the customary colour and energy that has seen this event rival St Patrick’s Day. At Liberty Hall, a flatbed truck rumbled through a traffic stop with brightly dressed drag queens; a giant Pride flag was drawn along by about 70 volunteers; a mock Aer Lingus plane bounced its way along Lincoln Place, crewed by dancers and a pilot DJ.

On Lambert Street, a number of redbrick homes hung out Pride bunting while neighbours drank tea and looked on. A little boy peered through the gate in a loud, flowing pink wig.

People watched on from balconies and rooftops. Organisations including companies and trade unions were represented; teachers lined out in multicoloured graduation gowns and LGBT Youth Groups, vibrant and energetic, held aloft placards advertising their home counties. Giant pink flamingos in bamboo skirts poked their heads above the throngs.

“It’s nice to see how many people are coming out in support,” said Craig Shalvey (26) from Galway. “Especially with the increase in homophobic attacks.

“It’s great to see the community out in force because I think it’s important for young people and even other people who mightn’t feel as comfortable in their identity, or be closeted, to see there is a huge community here.”

Friends Mairead Coll (28) and Shannon McHugh (28) had arrived from Glasgow. It was their first parade since they came out.

“You can see the progression. Ireland in itself has come a long way and it’s just so lovely to see,” said Shannon. “I hope it continues because...there has been so many horrible attacks recently in the news.”

Mairead, a veteran of parades in support of her friends, said she had not expected the day to be so emotional.

“But it’s been really, really nice and it’s nice to feel part of the community,” she said, “as the person that I actually am rather than the person I used to pretend to be.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times