Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Pride organisers removed anti-DUP sign from parade as it did not 'promote reasoned debate'

By Claire Williamson

Belfast Pride organisers removed an anti-DUP sign from a woman during Saturday's parade as it did not "promote reasoned debate" and "breached the Parades Commission's guidelines".

Eleanor Evans from Southend but lives in Belfast had a sign which read 'F*** the DUP' at Saturday's parade.

Belfast Pride organisers removed it saying they felt it breached the Parades Commision's guidelines.

The 24-year-old told LGBT media outlet Pink News: “I had walked past plenty of police who were at the parade and no problems from them with anything. About half way around one of the Pride officials comes running towards me with such a strange sense of urgency as if I was holding a gun or something.”

Miss Evans added: “Pride started as a protest and if you can’t carry a sign like that peacefully through Pride then I don’t understand what they think that event is for."

She claimed she was “shoved” and that the sign was “ripped” out of her hands.

Belfast Pride chair Sean O'Neill said they acted "quickly" to deal with the incident and that it was handled in an "appropriate and professional way"

Mr O'Neill said: "We believe that we can robustly defend Belfast Pride on this issue."

In a statement he said: "All parades in Northern Ireland are regulated by the Parades Commission – the Belfast Pride parade is no exception and this context is important.

"Belfast Pride has to apply formally to get permission for parade to go ahead each year and we are held responsible for the conduct of the parade and we take our responsibility seriously.

"We have more legal restrictions on our parade than any other Pride in Western Europe and yet LGBT people here currently have fewer rights than in any other jurisdiction in Western Europe."

He added: "During the Belfast Pride parade, two of our staff dealt with the situation around this sign and explained to the person concerned that we felt it breached the Parades Commission's guidelines as well as Belfast Pride’s Parade Terms and Conditions.

"The relevant part of the regulations is :'Refrain from using words or behaviour considered sectarian, abusive, insulting or lewd.' We don't think that the profanity and it's use in this way promoted reasoned debate and we won't let something like this be used as an excuse for a refusal to engage.

"We are also aware that incidents like this could cause restrictions to placed on future Belfast Pride events, given the legal context of parading here.

"We acted quickly to deal with this incident and we believe that we handled it in an appropriate and professional way. We believe that we can robustly defend Belfast Pride on this issue. We have replied in full to the person concerned and advised her of this and she has stated that she will not be taking further action."

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