Behind the scenes with Sydney Queer Irish at a historic Mardi Gras 2023

"We are so proud to be representing Ireland in all her shining glory in the Mardi Gras parade for the tenth time tonight."

Sydney Queer Irish in front of their float at Mardi Gras 2023.
Image: Loretta Cosgrove

The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade is one of the most iconic and colourful events in Australia. This year, more than 12,500 people and 220 floats lined up to march along the world-famous Oxford Street to celebrate diversity, equality and love as the city is the international host of WorldPride 2023 which started on Friday, February 24.

Hundreds of thousands of people lined the parade route to cheer on the marchers which included Sydney Queer Irish (SQI) and its float named ‘Bród’, the Irish word for Pride. The float represented how proud Irish people are of their culture and of being a diaspora that supports and builds communities across the world.

With an estimated additional hundreds of thousands of TV and live stream viewers, SQI did Ireland proud with its 80-member strong float dressed in green, white and gold, performing an intricate dance to the Cranberries ‘Dreams’ and U2’s ‘Pride (In the Name of Love)’ using striking LED fans for their choreography.

Aerial view of Sydney Queer Irish marching in Mardi Gras.

Each participant wore a sash decorated with a jewelled word that was meaningful to them, many of those written as Gaeilge.

SQI President and Art Director Loretta Cosgrove built an incredible mirrored harp that’s strings lit up into the tricolour in LED lights and, together with master milliner Rick McGill, she created five living harps that represented Ireland and the four provinces. The living harps preceded the dancers and float up the street.

Sydney Queer Irish in front of their float at Mardi Gras 2023.

The float also hosted a number of honoured guests.

Rosie Keane, Consul General of Ireland based in Sydney, said, “I marched at Mardi Gras for the first time last year, and it was an experience I will never forget. I felt so proud to walk with SQI, a wonderfully inclusive and vibrant Irish community group that embodies the very best qualities associated with our global diaspora.

“Sydney is hosting WorldPride for the first time this year, so this year’s parade was more fabulous than usual! Once again my team and I proudly marched with SQI, in what was (in my unbiased opinion) the most spectacular display of pageantry that Sydney has ever seen!”

Two members of Sydney Queer Irish posing for a photo.

Visiting from Dublin to participate in an international sexual health conference and promote both the film How to Tell a Secret, and podcast Poz Vibes, drag star Veda Lady added: “I’ve been a part of pride parades and festivities since coming out in Dublin in 1991. I have never in my wildest dreams imagined then a spectacle so big, so creative and so meaningful happening in my lifetime and to be here representing Irish people living with HIV as a HIVIP is truly mind-blowing.

“I want to say thank you to every sexual health organisation who took part in the parade and to everyone who has been tested, everyone on treatment and everyone on PrEP. We’re in this together and at Mardi Gras, you can really feel that”, they added.

Two members of Sydney Queer Irish dressed in elaborate green costumes.

Marching in the parade is an incredible experience that offers participants the chance to express themselves and show their support for the LGBTQ+ community, explained SQI President Loretta Cosgrove.

“One of the most memorable aspects of the parade is the sense of community and solidarity that it fosters. Our participants come from all walks of life, are not just from Ireland and are united with us in their commitment to promote inclusivity and acceptance. We are so proud to be representing Ireland in all her shining glory in the Mardi Gras parade for the tenth time tonight.

“I am beyond proud to lead such a passionate group and bring the Tri Colour to Sydney. Irish Pride is strong here and we are surrounded by allies”.

SQI committee member Trevor Weafer from Dublin has marched with SQI every single year it has participated in the parade, and has written a poem to mark the occasion:

To gather the people on Gadigal land
Push forward for progress, united we stand.
To dream of a future that’s equal and bright
We will not be silent. We stand for our rights.
When we all come together we can amplify,
That we’re all the same anyway, both you and I.



Also joining the marchers in Sydney this year was Anthony Albanese, the first sitting Australian Prime Minister to ever participate in the Mardi Gras parade.

Sydney Queer Irish emerged from a desire to create a social support network and a home away from home for the Irish LGBTQ+ community and its allies. The group provides a solid base from which to socialise and celebrate all that it means to be Irish and queer while living in Australia.

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