An estimated 6,500 people came out to celebrate ‘Belfast Pride’ on Saturday, despite some classic Irish weather and traditional Christian demonstrations.
The parade, held every year since 1991, has received public funding to create a spectacle for the city.
Event organiser Andrew Clarke said: “the amount of floats on the parade and the public support has been absolutely amazing. It’s colourful, it’s a festival parade and it’s fun.”
Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association president PA MagLochlainn told the Belfast Telegraph: “It was very pleasant. The marchers were very happy and very gay – in every sense of the word – and the whole thing was very good natured. Apart from one or two sprinkles of rain, the weather was great and everyone was happy and relaxed.”
The 12 floats, described as flamboyant, accompanied revellers, many with children and family members, along the city’s main shopping street towards the city hall. There was then an after-march party, complete with bouncy castle for children of all ages.
The Northern Ireland Parades Commission, normally concerned with contentious Orange marches, did not impose any restrictions on the march. Commission chairman Roger Poole described Belfast Pride as “a welcome addition to the streetscape of Belfast and in fact is a colourful and positive celebration of all lifestyles which co-exist in the city”.
Free Presbyterian protesters infiltrated the march, handing out extracts from the Bible in protest. The church, founded by DUP leader Ian Paisley, mounts a yearly counter-protest against Belfast Pride at the city hall.
Protesters turned their backs on the marchers as they passed, with veteran remonstrator Reverend David McIlveen explained to the Irish News that it was the “responsibility” of objectors to point out that such “flaunting their sexuality” is deemed “unacceptable and contrary to the teaching of the Bible”.