Belfast Telegraph

TUV chief questions why PSNI is involved in 'highly politicised' Belfast Pride parade

By Claire Williamson

TUV leader Jim Allister has written to the Chief Constable challenging the decision to allow PSNI officers to march in tomorrow's Pride parade.

It comes as the PSNI defended the move to allow uniformed officers to march in the annual parade.

Questions have been raised over whether the decision will undermine the force's political neutrality after a senior officer conceded the event has a political dimension.

Belfast Pride actively promotes the campaign to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland - the only part of the UK and Ireland where it remains outlawed.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the PSNI's objective through participating in tomorrow's parade was to show support for a community that suffers a "disproportionate" number of hate crime attacks and to reflect the diversity of the police's workforce.

Mr Harris added that the PSNI was "unlikely" to allow uniformed officers to take part in a Christian march that expressed a view that homosexuality was a sin.

He said: "We are a politically neutral organisation. Just step back from the narrow point about the societal change that some element of the Pride event wishes to promote.

"We are there to assure that community of our protection in terms of hate crime and also to be a representative workplace."

He insisted that the PSNI was not undermining anyone's belief system.

However, on Wednesday, TUV leader Jim Allister published an open letter to Chief Constable George Hamilton.

The letter states: "This is a highly politicised event with the demand for a change in the law to permit same sex marriage at its heart. Why is the PSNI joining in this political campaign?

"The official slogan for this year's event is 'Demand Change', which links directly to the campaign for same-sex marriage, a point made very clear by the chair of Belfast Pride in the forward to the 2017 Festival Guide.

"Why, then, is the PSNI involving itself in a political campaign?

"Just as I wouldn't expect the police to involve itself in demands to change the law on abortion, so, lending support to the demand to change the law on marriage is wholly inappropriate."

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