Belfast Telegraph

'It was the biggest parade we've had' - Over 1,000 people celebrate Foyle Pride in Derry

By Leona O'Neill

Over 1,000 people brought the streets of Londonderry to life with music and dancing to celebrate Foyle Pride in spectacular style on Saturday.

At 2pm a vibrant and colourful sea of people, many holding heart shaped placards and with their faces painted in rainbow colours, left the Waterside railway station, following the route of the 1968 Civil Rights March from Duke Street, along the Craigavon Bridge and towards the city's Guildhall.

As the parade set off, a small group of religious protesters from Bethel Baptist Church standing behind a 'Jesus Saves from Sin' banner tried to preach the word of God through a loud speaker over the din of whistles, cheers and chants of 'Whose rainbow? Our rainbow!'.

The protesters were led by controversial Baptist Pastor Mark Bradfield, who earlier in the week said the protest was an 'act of love' and they were there to 'help save souls'.

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Religious objectors during the Foyle Pride Festival parade through Derry Trevor McBride picture ©

Marchers took little notice of the loud preaching, many of them waving and smiling at protesters, and some exchanging passionate kisses with their partners as they walked past.

A mammoth rainbow coloured flag was carried in the parade and made for a stunning sight as the crowd weaved through the city centre and down Shipquay Street towards a stage outside the city's Guildhall, led by a scooter cavalcade.

Unlike the Belfast Pride march, the PSNI did not take part in the parade, but had a stand in the Guildhall where uniformed officers posed for photographs, handed out recruitment material and advised parade goers about hate crime.

Eimear Willis, chairperson of Foyle Pride 2017 said that the day 'couldn't have gone better'.

“That was the biggest parade that we've had,” she said. “Not only the biggest and most active and lively, there were so many groups, so many groups and so many youths involved coming with their pals, there were older people there, families and children. Our flag is the biggest flag in Ireland and it takes 150 people to carry it.

“It's important for us to march because even in the last couple of weeks we have seen a tirade of hate coming in against the LGBT community. Luckily a lot of us are strong enough to take it all in our stride, but there are people here who aren't as strong.

We need to be out and showing people that there is a support network there, there are listening ears, we are there to hold their hand. Eimear Willis

"If you need a guidance or help and support there are thousands of people there. That is why we are euphoric that we had thousands of people here today because if there is one person who is doubting themselves, or that someone loves them, there are several thousand people there who do, and they would get smothered if everyone wrapped their arms around them. That's the message that we want to get out there.”

Sinn Fein Foyle MP Elisha McCallion, who took part in the march, said that it was important to her to 'stand shoulder to shoulder' with LGBT community in their struggle for equality.

“We are here to show solidarity to our LGBT community,” she said. “I think today's event has been absolutely outstanding. I'm delighted with the turnout, fair play to everyone who came out to support us. There is clearly an energy for marriage equality here in the city and it was evident in today's march.

“This is about equality. No one should fear equality. There is no one who any better or any worse than anyone else. It is vitally important as an MP and as a constituency as a whole that we stand shoulder to shoulder with any community who are discriminated against.”

The Foyle Pride Parade is the main feature of a week-long programme of events celebrating the gay community and the very positive impact they have on the city.

The Pride parade ended with music and dance in the Guildhall Square.

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