Belfast Pride Parade ‘bringing Northern Ireland forward’

Thousands take to streets to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community

Thousands took to the streets of Belfast on Saturday for the annual Pride Parade, celebrating the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the North.

The city centre was awash with colour as the parade, led by the first openly gay deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mary Ellen Campbell, made its way from Custom House Square to City Hall and back again for a pop concert.

"Walking up Royal Avenue and hearing people cheering and happy is great," she told The Irish Times. "It is an honour to help show off our great city."

The theme for this year’s 10-day Belfast Pride festival was: “We are one.”


Event chairman Seán Ó Néill said it was “a reflection of the unity and strength that comes from diversity of the LGBT community in Belfast 26 years after 100 people marched in the first Belfast Pride parade”.

Businesses, trade unions, equality campaigners, religious groups and political parties were among those marching on Saturday. Many called for "marriage equality" as Northern Ireland is now the only region in the UK and Ireland not to extend civil marriage rights to LGBT couples.

Gareth (22) from Limavady, Co Derry – aka drag queen Crystal Dorothy Star – was "having a ball and really enjoying myself". "Northern Ireland is too set back in the times, it needs a kick up the ass to move forward," he said.

Louise Blair (42) from Newry, Co Down was dressed as the Queen of Hearts and had made her way to Belfast to support her son and his boyfriend. "It's a day for everybody, families, kids, all ages, it's just celebrating," she said.

Chris Blair (22) and Ryan McGuinness (21) believe civil marriage should be introduced in the North without delay. "It is just sad we're are the last corner of the UK not to have done anything about civil marriage," Chris said.

Ryan agreed and said the Pride festival had a “great atmosphere” and was “bringing Northern Ireland forward”.

Pauline Kemp (38) from Lisburn was watching the parade with her teenage daughter and friends. "It shows my daughter she doesn't have to hide," Pauline said.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 took part or watched the Belfast Pride parade. A religious protest outside City Hall, against the event, attracted around 40 people.

At Stormont last year, a motion in support of marriage equality received a slim majority in favour for the first time, but the move was only symbolic as it was vetoed by the DUP using a petition of concern blocking mechanism.

Alliance Party MLA Trevor Lunn, who went from voting against marriage equality to abstaining, to voting for it, during the last Assembly term has called on the DUP not to use its veto next time equal marriage comes before the Assembly. "DUP members could still vote along with their beliefs and principles, but I would call on the DUP to pledge not to use a petition of concern," he said. "It is only intended to protect minority rights and in this instance, it is doing the exact opposite."