An official statement released by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) on Friday, July 14, states that while police officers and staff may attend Belfast Pride, they will not march in uniform as they have in previous years.
Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said the decision would be disappointing for some, adding: “As a police service, we have had to carefully consider this request from our LGBT+ network on its merits, the stated purposes and circumstances surrounding the parade and our statutory obligations to act with fairness, integrity and impartiality, whilst upholding fundamental human rights and according equal respect to all individuals, their traditions and beliefs.
“Our broader participation in this and other Pride events continues to be an important element of our outreach and engagement highlighting the valuable role that LGBTQIA+ officers and staff play in our service, that we are an employer and service for all and that hate crime in whatever form is wrong.”
— Police Service NI LGBT+ Network (@PSNILGBT) July 17, 2023
Police officers marched in uniform during the Belfast Pride parade in past years. While some saw this as a public display of solidarity and inclusion and see the decision not to partake as a step backwards, others believe PSNI should never have been involved in Pride in the first place.
Police participation in Pride is a complicated issue due to the history of police violence against the LGBTQ+ community.
Garda presence at Dublin Pride in 2019 was met with protest, with Queer Action Ireland saying: “The participation of gardaí in uniform in this year’s parade is in direct opposition to the liberatory principles of Pride. The police continue to target LGBT+ people, sex workers, migrant and other ethnic minority people in Ireland today.”
— ProgressivePoliticsNI (@ProgPoliticsNI) July 14, 2023
The Pride Festival is one of Belfast’s largest annual festivals. The 10-day festival is “a protest and a celebration, a call for equality, a stand for solidarity and a celebration of the lives of LGBTQIA+ people in Belfast and beyond.” It runs from Friday, July 21 to Sunday, July 30, and over 150 events are planned including the Pride Parade at 1pm on Saturday, July 29.
Belfast Pride organisers stated that the festival is “unapologetically trans-inclusive” and any group engaging in trans-exclusionary practices will not be permitted to participate.
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