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Thousands of people fill the streets with colour as Belfast Pride returns with largest parade

First parade since marriage equality laws were extended to Northern Ireland was extra cause for celebration

Thousands of people have taken part in the first Belfast Pride parade in three years, held on Saturday.

Organisers said the Pride parade was the biggest one ever held in Belfast, with the number of groups taking part believed to be up significantly from the 60,000 who attended in 2019.

The theme for the event was "community united in diversity" and a group of asylum seekers and refugees who have made Belfast their home were invited to lead the march on its route through the city centre.

The parade was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic – with organisers missing the opportunity to celebrate the 30th anniversary last year year.

This year also marks the first parade since same-sex marriage was made legal in Northern Ireland.

Festival co-chairman John O'Doherty said the event had offered a belated chance to celebrate.

The history of Belfast Pride

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"We're really excited to have the opportunity to celebrate the introduction of equal marriage, something we haven't been able to do over the last three years," he said.

"So there's so much to celebrate today.  But there's also a lot of campaigning we still need to do to ensure that we have full equality for our community."

Three years ago, 135 groups registered to take part in the parade.

This year organisers had to close the application window early after 200 group registrations were received.

There was a carnival atmosphere in the city centre as the rain stayed away until the end of the parade.

Officers from the PSNI and Garda took part in the parade, walking together with representatives from GB forces including South Wales, West Mercia, Derbyshire and the British Transport Police.

Ulster Rugby also took part this year, with fly half Ian Madigan among those parading through the city.

Players from the Belfast Azlans, a predominantly gay rugby club, also joined the parade.

The GAA was also well represented, with Ulster GAA taking part along with several clubs, including East Belfast GAA.

Co-chairman of the Belfast Pride Festival Cara McCann said pent-up excitement was a factor in the large numbers taking part in the parade's return.

"People are fed up sitting at home the last couple of years and I think that's why we have increased numbers today," she said.

"But also I think Pride has increased generally and people just want to take part in it."

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Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Translink supports this year’s Belfast Pride Festival

Picture by Brian Morrison

Translink supports this year’s Belfast Pride Festival Picture by Brian Morrison

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets

Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

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Belfast Pride returns in full to the city's streets Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye

Ms McCann said it was remarkable how much the event had grown across three decades.

"I think the first brief dander was over 30 years ago with less than 100 people in that small walk and at those times it was a really nerve-wracking thing to do, and it was very, very brave for the people who went before us for that first ever Pride.

"It has grown globally but it has grown locally as well to a massive size."

A small group of religious protesters demonstrated against the Pride event outside Belfast City Hall as the parade passed by.


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