Belfast Pride: Irish leader Leo Varadkar takes part in LGBT+ march

‘The biggest parade that happens in Northern Ireland isn’t orange or green, it’s rainbow-coloured’

Peter Stubley
Saturday 03 August 2019 18:18
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The taoiseach poses for a photo at the start of the parade in Belfast
The taoiseach poses for a photo at the start of the parade in Belfast

Irish premier Leo Varadkar praised efforts to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland as he took part in Belfast’s Pride march.

The taoiseach, who is openly gay, joined thousands of people at the event in the city centre before taking to the stage to thank the crowd.

“I always say the biggest parade that happens in Northern Ireland isn’t orange or green, it’s rainbow-coloured,” he said. ”It’s really great to see it today.”

Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK where gay marriage is illegal but that could change on 21 October following last month’s landmark vote in the House of Commons.

The ban on same-sex marriage will only remain if Sinn Fein and the DUP can reach an agreement to form a new power-sharing executive before the deadline.

Mr Varadkar thanked Lord Hayward and Labour MP Conor McGinn, who also attended the march, for backing the legislation.

“What we see today in Belfast is Northern Ireland at its very best,” he added. “Open, inclusive, diverse and for everyone.”

In 2017 the taoiseach attended a Pride breakfast in Belfast to promote the rights of the LGBT+ community but was not able to attend the parade due to other official engagements.

This year’s Pride saw a rainbow flag delivered down Belfast Lough on a flotilla of boats blasting their horns. Belfast lord mayor John Finucane erected the flag at City Hall, the first time it has flown from the building.

The Sinn Fein councillor, who led the parade through the city centre, said he believed it was “the biggest and the best ever Pride festival in Belfast”.

Officers from the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Irish Garda also took part in the march.

However the BBC has faced criticism after announcing that staff in its Pride group would be attending the event.

Peter Johnston, the head of BBC Northern Ireland, was forced to clarify that the broadcaster was not involved “corporately” because of its guidelines on impartiality.

“We know that there are legislative issues specific to Northern Ireland in relation to same-sex marriage,” he said.

“These raise important considerations for the BBC in the context of its editorial guidelines, including the requirement to maintain due impartiality within our output.

“None of this means that members of the BBC Pride network cannot be involved in Pride festivities in Belfast, but it does require BBC Northern Ireland to avoid creating the impression that it has a position on matters of political contention or controversy.

“The BBC’s editorial guidelines provide clear advice in this regard. It is on this basis that BBC NI will not be involved corporately in the Belfast Pride parade and that individual programme brands will not be represented.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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