“It’s so important that rural LGBT people have the opportunity to celebrate who they are, celebrate their community, and show the important role that LGBTQ people play within rural communities.”
Saturday saw the LGBTQ+ community and allies take to the streets of Omagh to celebrate County Tyrone’s first ever Pride march. According to organisers and residents, the event was a resounding success, with hundreds of people in attendance. Cat Brogan, the event’s co-founder described, “the atmosphere throughout the town was electric”, as reported by Ulster Pride newspaper.
The parade was also widely supported by a number of political parties including Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance, People Before Profit and the Green Party. It was followed by speeches and performances on the grounds of South West College. Speakers included representatives from the PSNI, trade union activism, the Trans community, and anti-conversion activism.
With a rise in the number of LGBTQ+ people moving back to rural communities, local parades such as Omagh Pride, play a vital role in creating visibility and acceptance. In a video posted by Thomas Maher, John O’Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland, was keen to point out, “it’s so important that rural LGBT people have the opportunity to celebrate who they are, celebrate their community, and show the important role that LGBTQ people play within rural communities.”
Although the appeared to be a wide acceptance of the event, a small protest was carried out by the far-right nationalist group, Síol na hÉireann. During the demonstration, protestors recited Hail Marys and displayed religious statues.
This protest follows a similar demonstration held at a Pride event in Cookstown on September 18. During the protest, an ex-IRA gunrunner was punched for reciting decades of the Rosary and carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary.
Whilst these particular demonstrations have been relatively small, they reflect a growing rise in right-wing conservatism throughout Europe and Ireland. They also go to highlight the continued need for Pride marches and solidarity within the LGBTQ+ community.
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