Foster welcomes changes at Pride which removed offensive placards

Arlene Foster speaking at Monday nights Methodist event in Castlewellan. Photo: Joel Rock
Arlene Foster speaking at Monday nights Methodist event in Castlewellan. Photo: Joel Rock

Arlene Foster has acknowledged and welcomed the fact that there was no repeat of explicitive-laden placards targetting her party at Saturday’s Pride parade in Belfast.

In what appear to be conciliatory comments from the DUP leader, Mrs Foster said she was “glad to see” none of the profane anti-DUP language which appeared at the London Pride march last month.

Yesterday Belfast Pride confirmed that a woman had been asked to remove a sign which said “f**k the DUP” as they felt it did not “promote reasoned debate”.

An outraged Eleanor Evans, who said she had used the sign at London Pride, told Pink News: “If you can’t carry a sign like that peacefully through Pride then I don’t understand what they think that event is for.”

Speaking on Monday night during a relaxed discussion with the Sky News broadcaster David Blevins in Castlewellan at an event organised by the Methodist Church, Mrs Foster acknowledged that there had been a less confrontational tone at Belfast’s Pride event.

She said: “I was glad to see at the Pride parade on Saturday that there was not the same repeat of some of the scenes we had at the London Pride parade with profane language directed towards my party which was really the lowest of the low and I do think if we want to have a mature debate about the place of LGBT and Q people in Northern Ireland, then it has to be a move away from the sort of binary position which we find ourselves in at the minute of all or nothing, which I find is wrong.”

That answer was applauded by the audience of several hundred Christians.

Mrs Foster said that she accepted that there are “many people within Northern Ireland that believe in same-sex marriage in terms of civil same sex unions” but that her party believes that “marriage is between a man and a woman...it remains my position very firmly”.

The DUP leader said that the “most frustrating thing about this whole debate is the fact that if you stand up for marriage and if you stand up for the definition of marriage as we believe in it, then in some way that makes you homophobic and a hater of gays. Nothing could be further from the truth as far as I personally am concerned and it really does hurt me when people call me a homophobe just because I stand up for the definition of marriage which I believe in and I think this debate has become very toxic.”

In a separate interview, Ms O’Neill became tearful at the event as she recounted how the late Martin McGuinness had approached her to succeed him as the party’s Stormont leader at the start of this year.

The Mid Ulster MLA said that “we’ve had such an emotional year” and added: “This is where Martin McGuinness would be tonight and I want to carry on his work because he genuinely believed in reconciliation.”