Northern Ireland news

GAA still has no plans for Belfast Pride after Ulster Rugby joins parade

Ulster Rugby is taking part for the first time in the Belfast Pride festival
Brendan Hughes

THE GAA says it still has no plans to take part in Belfast Pride following Ulster Rugby's decision to join the LGBT parade for the first time.

Ulster Rugby announced it will participate in next Saturday's march to "promote equality and inclusiveness in rugby".

This year's Pride parade will be marked by a flotilla of ships sailing into Belfast, and will include an almost 100ft rainbow flag by the symbol's original designer.

In June, the GAA took part in the Dublin Pride parade for the first time, saying it wanted to show "solidarity and respect for members of the LGBTQ+ community".

However, the association centrally had said there were no Belfast Pride plans.

Asked again yesterday, a GAA spokesman said: "The GAA at national level supported a group participating in the capital's Pride event.

"It is at the discretion of other units to offer similar support to groups participating in other events around the country."

Ulster GAA did not respond to requests for a comment. Antrim county chair Ciarán McCavana, who in June said he believed the GAA "would be delighted to attend if invited", could not be contacted yesterday.

SDLP councillor and LGBT campaigner Séamas de Faoite, who had earlier this year contacted Ulster Rugby and the GAA to encourage them to take part in Belfast Pride, welcomed the rugby body's decision.

"This is an important statement of support for Ulster Rugby's LGBT+ players, staff, volunteers and supporters," he said.

"LGBT+ people can be found in all walks of life and that includes our local sporting teams and clubs.

"I hope now that other sporting organisations will follow Ulster Rugby's lead and take part in this year's Belfast Pride Parade."

The Irish Football Association previously said it first took part in the Belfast Pride parade in 2017 and "will be looking to play a full part in 2019".

The parade this year will include an original 100ft rainbow flag by Gilbert Baker.

A flotilla of ships will mark the start of the parade, which will involve the Pride flag being raised on city hall for the first time.

Festival organiser Seán Ó Néill said: "Belfast Pride brings the city together to call for equal rights for the LGBT+ citizens of Belfast and the Pride flag flying over city hall will be a clear statement that Belfast is becoming the modern, progressive, European city that we know it can be."

BBC Northern Ireland is taking part for the first time, with staff wearing BBC-branded t-shirts.

TUV leader Jim Allister claimed it impacted the BBC's impartiality, but a spokesman for the broadcaster said its "programmes continue to adhere to BBC editorial guidelines and values".

Last year, the Northern Ireland Civil Service took part in the Belfast Pride parade for the first time, while uniformed PSNI officers joined the parade for the first time in 2017.

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