PSNI had 'no business' taking part in Belfast Pride so withdrawal is welcome: TUV

A PSNI decision that officers should not take part in the Belfast Pride parade in uniform has been welcomed by the TUV.
A PSNI officer at the Belfast Pride parade in 2018. Photo: Arthur Allison/PacemakerA PSNI officer at the Belfast Pride parade in 2018. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker
A PSNI officer at the Belfast Pride parade in 2018. Photo: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker

Councillor Timothy Gaston said the PSNI had “no business” taking part in the parade in previous years as police should not join such a “political” campaign.

In a statement on Friday, ACC Bobby Singleton said that while he accepted that the decision will “come as a disappointment to some,” as a police service the PSNI has “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.”

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The force has faced criticism in recent years for permitting a PSNI delegation, in uniform, to walk in support of a cause that utilises “political” messaging – including successfully lobbying for changes to the laws around same-sex marriage.

Cllr Gaston said: “ACC Singleton is correct to point out that this is necessary in order to recognise their fairness, integrity and impartiality obligations.

“TUV alone has been clear in previous years that the PSNI had no business taking part in Belfast Pride for exactly those reasons. We therefore welcome that the penny has, finally, dropped with the PSNI top brass.

Cllr Gaston said the PSNI “should not be joining in such a political campaign,” and added: “Doubtless there will be those who will attack this decision but if, as some claim, it is about showing solidarity against hate crime – which, of course, is wrong who ever is the target – then, why the selectivity

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"There is no community that has experienced more hate crime than the Orange community, with hundreds of arson and criminal damage attacks on their halls, but no one is suggesting that the PSNI should show opposition to these hate crimes by participating in Orange parades.”

However, Alliance Party Policing Board member Nuala McAllister has described the PSNI decision as a “backwards step”.

She said: “I have seen first hand the praise PSNI officers have received while participating in the Belfast Pride parade. It also sends out an important message of support for those in the LGBTQ+ sector, to see police officers parading in their uniform, especially at a time when members of that community are under more attacks than in many years.

“It is not only a bad move for the PSNI to take this decision but a backwards one, which has set the clock back on years of work to improve relationships with and gain the confidence of LGBTQ+ people in policing.

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“To have participated in previous parades in uniform and then decide this year not to, gives credence to those opposed to LGBTQ+ rights and suggests police taking part in the parade in uniform was wrong, which is clearly not the case.”

She added: “I have spoken to PSNI leadership and expressed disappointment and frustration at this decision. There remains time before the Pride parade itself for the police to change their minds and not give in to those pushing an anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.”

On social media, the PSNI’s LGBT+ Network said it was “bitterly disappointed” at the decision, and added: “It has not been made clear to us what has changed for this year, or why previously agreed forms of Pride participation have now been withdrawn by the senior executive team”.