I did not launch gay event, says DUP Lord Mayor

Picture posted by police on Friday, showing the Lord Mayor with unnamed members of the PSNI Gay Police Association
Picture posted by police on Friday, showing the Lord Mayor with unnamed members of the PSNI Gay Police Association

Belfast’s DUP Lord Mayor has detailed his involvement with the annual gay pride festival in the city, after rejecting a claim that he had launched it.

Brian Kingston – a member of the Orange and Black institutions who took up his new civic role at the start of June – issued details clarifying his presence at a gathering on Friday night.

The Pride Festival will see a wave of events take place in the city over the next week or so, and its official launch was at 7pm at City Hall, where a gay awards ceremony took place.

Festival organisers had published a message online via Twitter, which said: “Belfast Pride makes history tonight as Lord Mayor of Belfast Brian Kingston (DUP) launches the Festival.”

The PSNI meanwhile posted a picture of the Lord Mayor with the following message: “Members of PSNI Gay Police Association & Lord Mayor Alderman Brian Kingston at the launch of @belfastpride Festival.”

Councillor Kingston then responded with his own message, which stated: “For clarity, I did not ‘launch the festival’ but did give a welcome address at a pre-event drinks reception at City Hall.”

When contacted by the News Letter on Sunday to ask for more details, he issued a statement which read: “The Deputy Lord Mayor Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell of Sinn Fein] attended the Belfast Pride Awards in the Great Hall at City Hall on Friday evening.

“As Lord Mayor, I spoke at a pre-event drinks reception on the rotunda, as I do regularly for events taking place in City Hall.

“I welcomed the attendees to City Hall and wished them an enjoyable evening.”

He said that he also outlined various “policies and actions” the council has undertaken on gay issues, including setting up a support network for gay staff, and the creation of a “transgender protocol”.

In 2012, then-DUP Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson agreed to be part of a panel discussion as part of the gay pride festival. It was believed to have been the first time a politician from the DUP had attended such an event.

He faced tough comments and questions as a result.