Belfast Pride Draws Crowd, Protest, Rebuke
The 21st edition of Belfast’s Pride Parade took place on July 30, drawing a crowd to the city but also triggering anti-gay religious protests. Organizers took pains to make the occasion welcoming to all, however, going so far as to host a "family fun day" at a city park on July 31st, reported British site News Letter on Aug. 1.
Organizers also said that the Belfast Pride Parade is the largest of its kind on Ireland, and one of the largest in the European Union.
"It’s giving people the chance to come out and be open about their sexuality and life in general," organizer Simon Rea told the media. "The support gets bigger and bigger every year and it’s great that Belfast welcomes us."
The event also drew appreciative words from the city’s mayor.
"Pride is a wonderful, colorful display, a huge parade taking place involving old and young," said Niall O Donnghaile. "There were many families as well -- a great indication and a great symbol of Belfast moving forward as a changing city."
But not everyone was pleased with the event, which drew a few small anti-gay demonstrations.
Rev. David McIlveen, a Presbyterian minister, headed up one such protest, a "gospel witness" that included about 60 people and took place on the route prior to the parade.
"I certainly do not see it as an asset to Belfast in any way. It is something that is grieving to a good number of people," McIlveen told the media. "It is an in-your-face situation which will always bring reaction," the minister added.
"We base what we are saying on God’s word," McIlveen continued, before going on to say that "the Gay Pride event [is a challenge] to many Bible believers." McIlveen protested to some of the floats, which he called "obscene," and complained about the volume at which the music was played.
"[I]t was a very unpleasant experience for anyone that would not be thinking the way the parade organizers would want you to think," the minister added.
The Pride event included a weeklong festival that started on July 23, leading up to the July 30 parade. Text at the event’s website said that the 2010 edition of Belfast Pride had brought more than 17,000 revelers to the city.
"With a 5,000 strong crowd in Custom House Square enjoying the entertainment not to mention the 1,000s at other venues across Belfast that afternoon, we’re still the biggest Pride in Ireland," the website claimed.