PSNI urged to reconsider ban on officers in uniform taking part in Belfast Pride parade

Psni Urged To Reconsider Ban On Officers In Uniform Taking Part In Belfast Pride Parade
Members of the PSNI and Garda join the Pride parade as it makes its way through Belfast city centre. Photo: PA Archive/PA Images
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By Jonathan McCambridge, PA

The PSNI should reconsider in future a decision not to allow police officers in uniform to participate in the Belfast Pride parade, Sinn Féin vice president Michelle O’Neill has said.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in the Pride parade in the city on Saturday.


The PSNI recently said it had reversed a decision from 2017 which allowed officers to take part in uniform, citing obligations to impartiality.

But Ms O’Neill said she questioned the motivation behind the PSNI U-turn.

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Michelle O’Neill said she would be taking part in the Pride parade in Belfast on Saturday (Lucy North/PA)


However, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the PSNI had made the right decision as officers had to display impartiality.

The 2023 Belfast Pride Festival features more than 150 events over 10 days, culminating in Saturday’s parade.

Ms O’Neill said she would be in the city centre taking part this weekend.

She said: “It is the biggest parade that we have here and it is something to celebrate.


“It is a celebration of equality, it is love, it is such a positive thing.

“I think it’s a really disappointing and retrograde step that the PSNI have chosen not to attend in their uniforms.

“Those people from the LGBT community are our community, they are police officers, so why would that not be reflected in the PSNI’s attendance at the event itself?”

She added: “I would ask them to reconsider that for future years and continue to engage and hopefully we will have a better response for next year.


“I wonder about the motivation as to the change of heart and I think that is a question which the PSNI will have to answer.”

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Leader of the DUP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said officers in uniform should not be taking part in Pride events (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sir Jeffrey said: “Of course people are entitled to take part in the Pride parade, but let’s not forget, Pride is a protest movement and as such the PSNI is required to be impartial.


“I would not expect the PSNI in uniform to take part in Orange parades or any other kind of parade where there is either a political or other agenda.

“The PSNI must be above that and I think this is the right decision.”

When announcing the PSNI decision earlier this month, Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton said he understood the move would be disappointing for some, but added that the PSNI had “statutory obligations to act with fairness, integrity and impartiality”.

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Earlier this month Assistant Chief Constable Bobby Singleton announced PSNI officers would not be permitted to wear uniform during Pride events (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Singleton said: “Having personally engaged with members of the LGBTQIA+ community at a number of events in recent months and met with our own LGBT+ network on this issue, I know that this decision will come as a disappointment to some.

“As a police service, we have 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.

“Our broader participation in this and other Pride events continues to be an important element of our outreach and engagement highlighting the valuable role that LGBTQIA+ officers and staff play in our service, that we are an employer and service for all and that hate crime in whatever form is wrong.”

The PSNI service policy prohibits officers from wearing their uniform or being identifiable as police when engaging in “cause issues”.

The service policy does however state that officers and staff can participate in such events provided they do so in a personal capacity and do not identify as members of the police.

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