Gay pride parade in Belfast to feature uniformed police officers for first time
Belfast Pride comes amid heightened scrutiny throughout the UK on LGBT issues in Northern Ireland.
Uniformed police officers are to take part in Belfast’s gay pride parade for the first time.
Serving Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers will take their place in the colourful annual parade through the city centre next Saturday.
A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police officers and staff from the Police Service of Northern Ireland have been involved in the Pride parade for many years. However, this is the first time they will have taken part in the parade in uniform.”
“There will be a number of senior police representatives at the Pride event.”
Belfast Pride comes amid heightened scrutiny throughout the UK on LGBT issues in Northern Ireland after the Democratic Unionists’ parliamentary deal with the Conservative Party.
The region’s continued ban on same-sex marriage is one of the issues preventing the restoration of a powersharing government in Belfast.
Sinn Fein has said it will only agree to re-enter a coalition administration if the DUP stops blocking a law change.
The DUP has used a controversial Stormont voting mechanism – the petition of concern – to prevent a law change, despite a majority of MLAs supporting the move at the last vote.
The party rejects any suggestion it is homophobic, insisting it is instead protecting the “traditional” definition of marriage.
An estimated 20,000 people marched through Belfast earlier this month calling for the introduction of gay marriage.
Following March’s snap Assembly election, the DUP no longer has the electoral strength to deploy a petition of concern in its own right, though it could still potentially combine with other socially conservative MLAs to do so.
That will only be tested once, and if a devolved Assembly can be re-established out of the current political crisis in Belfast.
If the region’s politicians fail to establish a new executive, direct rule from Westminster could be re-imposed.
If that were to happen, the responsibility for legislating on the region’s marriage laws would be handed to the London government.