Estimates varied, but somewhere between twenty-five to fifty thousand people attended the Belfast Pride on August 4th. According to multiple sources, it was the largest turnout for the event since the LGBTQ procession began in Northern Ireland a quarter-century ago.
This year’s theme was titled “Come Out for Change.” The goal was to promote and secure more rights for the LGBTQ community in Northern Ireland as a whole.
In a post on their Facebook page, Belfast Pride Festival wrote, “We need to show support for all LGBT+ people with the unique affirmation that Pride gives and celebrate our lives to claim our place as equal citizens. Belfast will be at its best today and it’s time to play your part – come in to town, join the parade, visit the Square, Pride Village, the street parties and share the positivity and acceptance.”
According to the newspaper The Irish Sun, the parade featured “a diverse range of marchers, with voluntary and community organisations, businesses, trade unions and local councils joining the LGBT cohort.”
“Members of An Garda Siochana represented the Irish force, marching in uniform with officers from the PSNI. The majority of the main political parties of Northern Ireland were present, with the exception of the DUP.” The DUP, or Democratic Unionist Party, is a right-wing nationalist party.
According to the Irish News, “Sinn Féin leader in the north, Michelle O’Neill was among the strong party contingent and described it as a ‘day of smiles,’ which had a ‘carnival atmosphere,’ while UUP Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie enjoyed a ‘colourful parade’ with a ‘decent bit of protest.'”
Politically, the attendees sought to shine a light on the numerous hardships which still beset the LGBTQ people of Northern Ireland. Among these are requests for abortion legislation (like the Republic of Ireland has) and the lack of any marriage rights for gay people.
Belfast Pride Festival chair Sean O’Neill stated that the march was the inheritor of a brave revolutionary tradition from twenty-five years ago.
O’Neill said that “Belfast Pride was founded by pioneers who defied attitudes that we couldn’t have a pride here and that we should know our place, 100 brave people marched in Belfast Pride in 1991.”
Supporters of Belfast pride called upon the government of the United Kingdom to recognize the rights of LGBTQ persons, and said they were “sick” of “second-class citizenship.”
One volunteer for Belfast Pride, Denise Hart, noted that the modern version of Pride was “unrecognisable from the very first parade,” which occurred in 1991.
In those days, Hart estimated, there were about a total hundred parade-goers.
The Belfast Pride parade 2018 started and finished at Custom House Square.