Belfast Telegraph

Taking part in Pride empowers officers, claims NI policeman

Politicians Clare Bailey and Mal O’Hara (front centre) with other speakers at the Alternative Queer Ulster at Stormont
Politicians Clare Bailey and Mal O’Hara (front centre) with other speakers at the Alternative Queer Ulster at Stormont
At Belfast Pride Festival’s Big Pride Picnic were David Martin and Lauren Robinson with children Kehinde Ajala, Aston Martin-Patton and Taye Ajala
Kathleen McConnell visits the PSNI stall at the event

By Michael McHugh

Police participation in gay pride marches in Northern Ireland is about allowing officers to be true to themselves, a policeman has said.

Paul Bloomer said gay members of the PSNI were no longer invisible.

Uniformed colleagues are expected to take part in this weekend's Pride parade through Belfast.

Mr Bloomer was speaking at Stormont's Parliament Buildings, which hosted the second Alternative Queer Ulster event on Saturday evening.

An Ulster Unionist councillor, an Irish Traveller and a person from a Chinese background were also among the diverse list of speakers.

Mr Bloomer said: "The simple act of Pride participation is about empowering queer police officers so they can do their jobs to the best of their abilities and remain true to themselves.

"We wanted you to see that we are you and you are us."

He acknowledged that historically and internationally there had been a lack of consideration in policing surrounding the treatment of victims of LGBT hate crime but insisted that had changed.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK or Ireland where same-sex marriage is illegal, but that was overturned recently by Westminster. Such ceremonies are set to become legal unless Stormont is resurrected and steps in to block it.

Same-sex marriage is one of the issues of contention between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Michael Palmer, an Ulster Unionist councillor, said he had worked behind closed doors to advance the LGBT cause within unionist circles.

He said change happened when people accepted that people lived their lives differently.

He urged members of the LGBTQ community, people with dreams and aspirations, to take responsibility for engineering change themselves.

He said: "People like me have spent many years making it happen behind closed doors."

Malachi O'Hara, who organised the event, said old, conservative white men could not dictate who was at Stormont for the event.

He said: "Hallowed hall? I think we sprinkled some fairy dust over it."

Others who spoke included a straight Cliftonville football fan from north Belfast who helped unfurl the first rainbow flag on the terraces in 2014.

Another speaker recalled the procedure of transitioning from a man into a woman, spending two years considering the surgery and its implications.

Campaigner Phoebe Brigginshaw told the audience: "In 1998 we the public were promised hope and a shared future. It was on the back of this pledge that this country was swept on a promise of right and equality for all.

"Queer people were not so lucky. We had no meetings with heads of state but we were there in the background watching in silence as armies laid down their arms biding our time.

"You would not give us our shared future. Now, we have come here to take it."

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph