Just a few brief reflections on last Saturday’s Gay Pride march in Belfast. It was a good deal bigger than in previous years – the 7000 figure quoted seemed a bit steep, but it was definitely in the thousands. All the recent media furore must have helped. Nice to see some marchers getting into the spirit of things by dressing up as Iris Robinson.
Apart from being rather large, the composition was a lot more working-class than you’d be used to. One expects the luvvies, but plenty of ordinary punters turning up to show their support, many of whom must not be gay themselves. This is all to the good. And lots of political banners – and, really, an awful lot of politicians, from every party bar the DUP. The nationalists might have been expected, but the intrepid Basil McCrea of the Official Unionists provoked a double-take. I also noticed a fair presence from Amnesty International, who weren’t much in evidence when they might have been useful here, but since the Troubles finished seem to have extended their mandate big time.
There was the usual picket of Free Presbyterians waving bibles and shouting about Sodom and Gomorrah, but they were relatively few in number and they don’t disrupt things the way they used to. Only two incidents worth mentioning arising from that. First was a lone fundamentalist rushing the parade, apparently with the intent of attacking a float featuring a papière-maché head of Iris Robinson. And one gay decided to moon the fundies. This last has led to the predictable outbreak of synthetic anger in the News Letter, which has been holding forth about Christians being subjected to abuse.
In general, though, quite a lively party atmosphere. The organisers seem to be going for the Mardi Gras style. And after years of tramping through damp streets in small numbers to the heckling of hellfire preachers, I suppose you can’t blame the gays for trying to have some fun for a change.