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Police role in gay Pride parade backed by DUP councillor

Members of the PSNI and Garda joined Saturday's Pride parade. Picture by Peter Morrison/PA Wire

A DUP councillor has backed the PSNI's participation in Saturday's Pride parade in Belfast.

Ards and North Down representative Tom Smith declared his support for the force's officers marching alongside LGBT activists on Twitter.

Garda officers also travelled north to join the parade.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said the PSNI's objective in taking part in Pride was to show support for a community that suffers a "disproportionate" number of hate crime attacks and to reflect the diversity of the police's workforce.

However, TUV leader Jim Allister was critical of the PSNI, saying taking part in Pride undermined the force's neutrality.

In a discussion with commentator Alex Kane, prompted by an earlier tweet from South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly, Mr Smith said he had friends who were gay but did not make their sexuality public "because of (the) persecution and abuse they would face".

He said he was glad that was changing.

"For the record, I have absolutely no problem with Belfast Pride or PSNI taking part – we must end hatred!" he added in his tweet.

Mr Smith's DUP colleague Jim Wells resigned from his National Trust membership at the weekend over the conservation charity's support for LGBT rights.

He was supported by Causeway and Glens DUP councillor John Finlay, who claimed people were "alarmed at the increasingly militant and all encompassing nature of the LGBT agenda"

Ahead of Saturday's parade, Ms Pengelly tweeted: "Best wishes to all my friends & constituents celebrating today – all should be able to live a proud life free from hate, abuse or persecution".

But when asked by The Irish News the DUP was unable to state whether Ms Little-Penngelly's tweet was a reference to Pride.

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