Belfast city centre is a neutral space but republican parade was not shown inclusivity

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

A Tale of Two Cities.

What a kaleidoscope of colour.

Such an outpouring of love.

A pageantry of acceptance and a carnival of inclusiveness,that was Pride 2017.

A wonderful spectacle embracing diversity with tolerance, as the rights of the LGBT community celebrated in glorious sunshine on a sun dappled rainbow festooned colourful Saturday afternoon in downtown Belfast.

I was proud to have walked with my fellow brothers and sisters demanding equal rights for those who have suffered discrimination, homophobia, assault, harassment, dehumanisation, ridicule and arrest at times by the very same forces who paraded.

For me the demand for equal marriage is the same as the demand for universal suffrage, for equal pay for women, for embracing refugees from war, for the full implementation of the social welfare system to the protection of minorities, the vulnerable and the poor.

All these causes are about equality, social inclusion and acceptance, which helps create a caring and cohesive society.

While I walked on the parade I marvelled at just how much Belfast and society has moved on in the last 10 years. The number of marchers, combined with those lining the streets, was overwhelming and hopefully not lost on our political backwoodsmen.

Annually we have the divergent Orange Order, Trade Union, Pride, pro choice rallies, protests and parades all marching to a different single drumbeat through Belfast City Centre with the approval of the Parades Commission.

On Sunday, the next parade, the next determination. What a contrast the weather was, abysmal amd more akin to October than August.

The route from North Belfast via Royal Avenue to Divis Street uncontroversial as the parade passed, no interfaces, there where no protests notified and Belfast city centre is a shared neutral space enjoyed by all the community.

There were no police in short sleeves marching in the parade nor marshalling the route, just heavily armed Tactical Support Groups with riot equipment and a police cordon of armoured vehicles blocking our path.

There would be no inclusivity shown to the Anti Internment League (AIL) march. No tolerance, no acceptability, no equality?

The new Belfast shown on Saturday August 5 to the LGBT community, which I welcome, became the old Belfast for republicans and human rights activists stopped at North Queen Street and stopped from demanding justice for the Craigavon Two and the release of Tony Taylor.

The Parades Commission should hang its head its shame. No Fenian feet on our street seems to be a message still being relayed from some sections of society here.

I will proudly march in solidarity with the LGBT community and I will march with the trade union movement, with Pro Choice, anti war and anti fascist comrades and I with AIL to demand an end to secret courts, secret evidence and internment by the state of its opponents on unconvictable charges.

I hope to see some of you there too?

Fra Hughes, Belfast BT14