Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Thousands gather for Belfast Pride parade

Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Hartley with some of the marchers at the 2008 Gay Pride parade
A participant gestures during the annual Gay Pride Parade in Sao Paulo, Sunday, June 10, 2007. More than 1 million people packed the streets of Sao Paulo for what is reportedly the world's largest gay pride parade, kissing, dancing and waving rainbow flags in a carnival-like atmosphere to condemn homophobia, racism and sexism.

Thousands of people are expected to flock to Belfast city centre today for the annual Pride parade.

>> Watch: Video 1, Video 2, Video 3

The colourful event, which is the highlight of the Belfast Pride Festival, will wind itself through the city streets in support and celebration of the local lesbian and gay community.

Last year almost 7,000 people took part in the parade which featured an array of spectacular and interesting floats including one of controversial DUP MP Iris Robinson.

In fact, the First Minister’s wife featured quite prominently in last year’s parade with dozens of marchers donning Iris masks in protest at comments she made regarding homosexuality.

The then chair of the Assembly’s health committee claimed homosexuality could be cured through psychiatric counselling, and she likened gay sex to child abuse.

Her remarks were denounced by Northern Ireland’s gay community and led to calls for her resignation.

This year it is not known what organisers have in store, however they have promised much of the same colourful fanfare seen in previous years.

They are also hoping the wet and windy conditions forecast for the day will not rain on their parade.

One person who will definitely be protesting against the parade “come rain or shine” will be the Rev David McIlveen.

The minister of the Sandown Free Presbyterian Church stages a protest at the park opposite St Anne’s Cathedral each year.

He told the Belfast Telegraph last night that he and other members of the church will once again make their views known today.

“Come rain or shine we will be quite happy to stand in the rain tomorrow,” he said. “We believe the parade has become a contentious parade simply because of two incidents.

“In 2007 a placard was carried which said ‘Jesus was a fag’ and nothing was done about that. In 2008 there was a photograph taken of a man who had lowered his trousers in Donegall Street and simulated a sex act, and nothing was done about that. We feel that has in its own way contributed to the parade becoming contentious.”

The nineteenth annual Pride parade kicks off at Custom House Square at 2pm and will make its way to Donegall Street, left onto Royal Avenue and Donegall Place, round City Hall to Howard Street, right onto Fisherwick Place and Wellington Place, and then makes its way back to the Square via Donegall Place and High Street.

Following the parade a free party featuring live music and DJs will be held at Custom House Square from 3pm.

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