Newry.ie

Pride in Newry Festival 2014 has been declared an incredible success. The Festival in it’s third year was easily the best supported ever, with visitors from all parts of Ireland and the UK making a weekend of it and joining in many of the festivities. These not only included the Pride in Newry Parade and Concert but also a fun filled family area, trips down Newry Canal on Currachs, street theatre galore and a second stage right bang in the middle of town showcasing the best of local bands.

Pupils from St Paul's High School, Bessbrook walking in the Pride in Newry Festival Parade on Saturday along with their Principal Jarlath Burns. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Pupils from St Paul's High School, Bessbrook walking in the Pride in Newry Festival Parade on Saturday along with their Principal Jarlath Burns. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

The week running up to the finale included a comedy night from All Porter, a name to watch out for in the future, a trade union event as well as events organised by Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

A local secondary school took part in the Pride in Newry Parade for the first time ever, a very good indication of how far Newry has come in the push for recognition and equality for the LGB and T communities.

Jarlath Burns, Principal of St Paul’s High School walked with pupils from the school’s year 13 and 14. St Paul’s is the second largest school in the province with an attendance of over 1500 pupils and it’s thought that it was the first time a school took part in any Pride parade anywhere on the island of Ireland.

Rory Rafferty, Chairman, Newry Rainbow Community said “While Newry is a small city, it’s a place where we like to think big! The Pride in Newry Festival has built itself up to become, ok perhaps not the largest, but definitely the most progressive and inclusive Pride on the island of Ireland. Last year in what some people would regard as a nationalist city members of the Progressive Unionist Party walked in the parade. This year St Paul’s High School has proudly stood up for equality and took part in our parade. Speaking on behalf of the members of the Newry Rainbow Community, It makes me really proud to be from Newry, a city where small changes are making a big difference”

Enjoying the Pride in Newry Festival Parade. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Enjoying the Pride in Newry Festival Parade. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Speaking at the festival, OFMDFM Junior Minister Jennifer McCann said: “It’s an honour for me to have taken part in Newry Pride over the past three years and to watch it grow bigger, brighter and more colourful.  Newry Pride celebrates diversity and it is this diversity that makes our society strong and vibrant. Events like today allow us to embrace our differences, building tolerance and respect in our community.

“We are currently developing a Sexual Orientation Strategy aimed at addressing the inequalities faced by lesbian, gay and bisexual people.  The first phase of consultation recently finished and I would urge everyone to get involved and help us develop a society which shares the respect, open-mindedness and pride in our differences shown here today.”

Peter Tatchell speaking at Pride in Newry 2014. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Peter Tatchell speaking at Pride in Newry 2014. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Guest speaker on the day international human rights activist Peter Tatchell. Whilst praising the advances made already for LBGT rights Peter commented  “Of course we haven’t still won everything. There’s still the blood ban, here in the north of Ireland, there’s still the ban on same sex marriage and we must never ever give up that fight to ensure that every LGBT person in this province has equal rights.”

He continued “In so many countries around the world today, even the right to be LGBT is under threat. With nearly 80 countries criminalising same sex relationships. More than half of these countries are members of the Commonwealth. Forty two of the fifty three Commonwealth member states criminalise homosexuality with penalties ranging up to life imprisonment and even execution in parts of Nigeria and Pakistan. Lets spare a thought for those people in those countries who don’t even have the right to be who they are without the threat of jail or worse.”

Enjoying the third Pride in Newry Parade. Photograph: Columba O'Hare
Enjoying the third Pride in Newry Parade. Photograph: Columba O'Hare

Concluding Peter added “Our struggle is a struggle beyond borders, it’s a struggle for every human being on this planet to love the person of their choice, to love without fear of discrimination or violence and from Newry today we send a message throughout Britain, throughout Europe and throughout the world that we stand in solidarity with every LGBT person. They are our brothers and sisters. Queer freedom has no boundaries, it’s beyond borders, it’s a global struggle, it’s an unstoppable global trend.”

Following the speeches several thousand people were entertained in McClelland Park by a fantastic mix of performers including Microlip, Ryan Dolan, The Nooks and The Bjorn Identity  bringing the festival to a close for another year.

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