Northern Ireland

Belfast Pride: Thousands take part in parade through city centre

Belfast Pride Parade 2017 Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption The theme of this year's Belfast Pride parade was 'Demand Change'

More than 5,000 people have taken part in Saturday's Belfast Pride Parade, organisers have said.

Thousands of people lined the streets to watch throughout the afternoon.

The theme of this year's parade was 'Demand Change' and focused on efforts to overturn Northern Ireland's ban on same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland is the only region of the UK in which same-sex marriage is not allowed.

The parade was led by Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister and was the main event of the nine-day long Pride festival, which finishes on Sunday.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister helped lead the parade

Festival goers and musicians gathered in Custom House Square before parading through the city centre.

PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) and Gardaí (Irish police) officers marched in uniform in the parade for the first time.

A small protest against the Pride parade was held outside City Hall.

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar, the Republic of Ireland's first openly gay taoiseach, told a Pride breakfast event on Saturday morning that it is "only a matter of time" before the law in Northern Ireland is changed.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption PSNI and Gardai officers marched in the parade in uniform for the first time

In 2015, the Republic of Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage in a referendum.

Denise Hart, from the Pride organising committee, said that the theme was chosen because the LGBT community are demanding the "same rights as the rest of the United Kindom".

"Having looked at the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland is still lagging behind the rest of the UK in terms of laws that have enacted there that have not been enacted here.

"It really is time that we as a community demand change."

DUP MP Emma-Little Pengelly was among those to tweet well wishes to those taking part in Pride.

The DUP is opposed to same-sex marriage and has used a Stormont veto known as a petition of concern to block motions to change the law.

Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption The theme of this year's Belfast Pride Parade was 'Demand Change'

The party has previously rejected accusations it is homophobic and said that it is protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage between a man and a woman.

The issue of same-sex marriage is one of the major stumbling blocks in the ongoing Stormont crisis, with Sinn Féin demanding that the DUP stop blocking a law change.

Other politicians who attended the Pride march included Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill, Alliance Party leader Naomi Long and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, who tweeted a picture of him with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

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