The PSNI should not shed their neutrality for Pride or anything else

News Letter editorial of Friday August 6 2021:

Friday, 6th August 2021, 1:38 pm
News Letter editorial

It is remarkable how quickly attitudes to same-sex matters have changed in Northern Ireland.

When, in the 1970s, homosexuality was illegal (unlike in England and Wales) there was no clamour whatsoever for law reform.

Both sides of the Irish border had essentially the same legal codes with regard to gay relations.

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Homosexuality was only decriminalised as a result of a legal action in the European Court of Human Rights.

Jeff Dudgeon, who was to become a much-respected voice within unionism on matters such as legacy, was on the political fringes, as he battled for change.

Now only a fringe of the population would believe that same-sex acts should attract criminal sanction.

It is understandable, given the speed of change in public opinion and the feeling that many people have that previous attitudes were too unforgiving, that the PSNI and others have leant their support to Gay Pride.

Even so, the police here made a mistake in doing so.

As Northern Ireland knows better than almost anything, policing must be seen to be neutral, and almost any cause such as Pride ultimately has political connotations.

If PSNI officers can march in uniform in Pride, why then can they not in a loyal orders parade, or a republican procession, and so on? Allowing participation in Pride, including changing the livery of PSNI vehicles, is a slippery slope.

And now it transpires that the police have had no thanks in some quarters for their approach.

Sinn Fein are reported not to want the PSNI to have a stall at a Pride event in Omagh.

This might not be a surprise. After all, republicans implied that gay marriage was a red line for return of Stormont yet in the end only the Irish language was such.

But while SF’s approach is predictable, the PSNI should never have put themselves in a situation where their support for Pride failed to gain them any credit in certain circles.

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