Belfast Pride calls for marriage equality in the North

‘People have been making a positive statement today, it’s time to sort this out’

Pride marchers take to the streets in Belfast. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson/@AmandaFBelfast

Pride marchers take to the streets in Belfast. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson/@AmandaFBelfast

 

Calls for civil marriage equality in Northern Ireland have been made as the annual Belfast Pride parade attracted tens of thousands of people to the streets of the city.

The theme for this year’s colourful 10-day festival, ending on Sunday, is “25 Years Building Equality. It’s Time”. From humble beginnings in 1991, when the late veteran equality campaigner PA Maglochlainn was among 100 people to take part in the first Belfast Pride march, the parade on Saturday, celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans community, attracted participants and supporters of all ages and backgrounds.

Following the Republic’s historic Yes vote in the same-sex marriage referendum earlier this year, Northern Ireland is now the only region in the UK and Ireland not to extend civil marriage rights to LGBT couples.

Belfast Pride chairman Seán Ó Néill said this has to change. “The theme today reflects 25 years of Pride, of step by step toward equality,” he said. “We are are saying after the recent equal marriage vote, the continuing blood ban, general homophobia and failure to tackle it in schools, it’s time to sort these things out.

“People have been making a positive statement today and they are saying it’s time to sort this out.”

Amnesty International director in Northern Ireland Patrick Corrigan agreed. “Belfast Pride in its 25th anniversary year is bigger than ever before,” he said.

“The reception from bystanders and onlookers in Belfast was very loud and very welcoming, no more so than when the big marriage equality banner that I was helping to carry passed through. “That seemed to attract the biggest support of all and for that we are truly grateful.

“It is a sign that Belfast has come of age in terms of its preparedness to stand up for equality for all of its citizens, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity and as the theme of this year’s event is ‘It’s Time’ it certainly is time for marriage equality and that is the message from the streets of Belfast today to the politicians on the hill at Stormont.”

Actor Matthew Cavan (26) from Carrickfergus aka Cherrie Ontop was among the Belfast Pride marchers, led by Sinn Féin Lord Mayor Arder Carson. “My message is love and let love, that is what life is all about, really,” Matthew said. “It’s about acceptance of people and who they are.”

“I am wearing a wedding dress today because it’s my hope for the future to one day get married in Belfast.”

Belfast-born singer Brian Kennedy could not be at Saturday’s parade, as he had gigging commitments in Co Clare, but wished everyone in his home city a “Happy Pride” and also called for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

“I want to wish all of the LGBT community and their admirers so much love,” he said. “Let’s make marriage equality a reality with the rest of the island of Ireland.”