Thousands lined the streets of Belfast as the city’s pride parade returned for the first time in three years.
Organizers said the Pride parade was the largest ever held in Belfast and the number of groups taking part in the colorful parade has increased significantly since the last staging in 2019.
The theme of the event was “a community united by diversity” and a group of asylum seekers and refugees who have made Belfast their home were invited to lead a noisy procession along its route through the city centre.
The parade was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Three years ago, 135 groups registered for the parade.
This year the organizers had to close the entry window early after 200 group registrations were received.
There was a carnival atmosphere in the city center as it didn’t rain until the end of the parade.
PSNI and Garda officers took part in the parade along with representatives of UK forces including South Wales, West Mercia, Derbyshire and the British Transport Police.
Ulster rugby also took part this year, and half of Ian Madigan was among those who paraded through the city. Players from the predominantly gay Belfast Azlans rugby club also joined the parade.
The GAA was also well represented with the Ulster GAA participating along with several clubs including the East Belfast GAA.
Belfast Pride Festival co-chair Cara McCann said pent-up excitement was a factor in the return of large numbers of parade participants.
“For the last couple of years, people have gotten tired of staying at home, and I think that’s why today we increased their number,” she said.
“But I also think that Pride has grown in general and people just want to get involved.”
Ms McCann said it’s amazing how much the event has grown over three decades.
“I think the first short dandruff was over 30 years ago when there were less than 100 people on this little walk and it was really nerve-wracking at the time and it was very, very bold for the people who came before us. for that very first Pride.
“It has grown globally, but it has also grown locally to enormous proportions.”
The ban on same-sex marriage was lifted in Northern Ireland in early 2020, just before the start of the pandemic, so Saturday’s pride parade was the first in the city since this historic change in the law.
Another co-chair of the festival, John O’Doherty, said the event offered a belated chance to celebrate.
“We are very excited to be able to celebrate the introduction of equal marriage, which we have not been able to do for the past three years,” he said.
“So there is something to celebrate today.
“But we still have a lot of campaigning to do to ensure full equality for our community.”
A small group of religious protesters demonstrated against the Pride event outside Belfast City Hall as the parade was taking place.