Thousands take to streets for Belfast Pride parade

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The annual Belfast Pride parade kicked off on Saturday amid a week of controversy between political parties.

Thousands of people in the LGBTQ community and their supporters took to the streets for the parade, following floats through the city centre.

Campaigners from the Love Equality campaign used the parade to highlight their call for Theresa May’s Government to extend marriage rights to LGBT couples in Northern Ireland.

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said the march is still very much a protest in Belfast.

“Pride is always the most colourful day of the year in Belfast. This year it is bigger and brighter than ever,” he said.

“People on the streets of Belfast today are sick of a second-class citizenship based on who they are and where they live.

“Theresa May and (Northern Ireland Secretary) Karen Bradley should be ashamed that 18 months after the collapse of devolution, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland are still waiting to be treated as equals.

“This is now in their hands.”

The DUP has come under fire this week at various Pride events in Belfast over the use of a petition of concern to block legalisation of same-sex marriage when the Assembly was sitting.

DUP leader Arlene Foster claimed on Thursday that a bid to fly a Pride flag at a council building was a republican ruse to remove the Union flag.

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council (ABC) councillors had voted to fly the flag at the weekend, to coincide with Pride Day, but DUP members triggered a procedural mechanism on Tuesday claiming that proper process had not been followed.

The “call-in” mechanism, which needs the backing of 15% of councillors, requires officials to seek legal advice on a course of action before proceeding.

Mrs Foster told BBC Radio Ulster: “As I understand it, the issue is not about Pride, the issue is about that the policy in the ABC council is only to fly the Union flag and the Armed Forces Day flag, and colleagues felt this was a ruse by republicans to remove our national flag, and it’s not about respect or Pride at all.

Belfast Pride
Players from the Belfast Azlans, a gay rugby team, enjoy a game before joining Belfast Pride (Michael Cooper/PA)

The move was labelled “bizarre” by Sinn Fein.

Meanwhile, a group of around 50 Christian anti-Pride campaigners gathered at Belfast City Hall to protest against the event, reading Bible verses and singing hymns.

The Pride Festival is now one of the biggest events in Belfast and it has involved more than 100 events across 10 days.

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