Dublin Pride: how this year's parade brought out the best in Irish people

Yesterday’s Dublin Pride parade was a celebration of humanity in its most eclectic, all-embracing form, with the theme “We Are Family” being embraced in every possible way.

Dublin’s Pride parade has been growing in unsurpassed levels since it’s first installment in 1983 Over the last number of years in particular it has become a day of celebration, fun and excitement for people from every walk of life, regardless of their sexual orientation.

It’s almost unfathomable to think that gay rights have only fully come into effect in a relatively short space of our recent history. Let’s not forget that homosexuality was only decriminalised in 1993, and it wasn’t until 2015 that the marriage equality referendum was passed (albeit, it was passed with such a resounding yes that I still get goosebumps of delight just thinking about it).

Getting there

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Walking through Dublin’s suburbia, there weren’t many signs that the day was anything out of the ordinary. Well, apart from the many rainbow flags that hung at various shop fronts, and the giant PRIDE flower display that was showcased at the various florists. In general, people were going about their business as usual, with the addition of the glorious sunshine shining from above; a good omen for a happy day to come.

It wasn’t until I got to the canal that the first few glimpses of Pride attendees started to appear. The very first person I spotted was a woman wearing a “CHRISTIANS FOR PRIDE” t-shirt, which felt particularly noteworthy and made my heart swell. Then trickles of people who were wearing the rainbow flag – either in clothing form or tied across their necks – started to come into view. It looked as if they were supporting their nation’s team for a world cup match; a nation united by respect and encouragement of all people to express themself in however they see fit.

And oh boy did people express themselves!

The World of Pride

As I came closer to St Stephen’s Green, where the official parade was kicking off from, I was lambasted into the world of Pride. It looked like a rainbow had thrown up all over the city after eating a particularly hefty dinner of sparkles and rhinestones. In other words, it looked absolutely fabulous.

Ear-to-ear smiles, impromptu dance-offs, splashes of colour, glitter and rainbow-clothing in every place I looked, whilst pumping, thumping feel-good chart-toppers rang out for all to enjoy. This was all being overseen by resplendent drag queens who surveyed the activities below from on top their floats. Looking up at the queens, big-busted, heavily HD-browed and donning hair that was often as high as their sky-scraping heels, they seemed like an caricature of Grecian goddesses striding in on bejazzled clouds. They also looked incredibly serene, considering the heatwave we’re currently experiencing, and the fact that a lot of them were wearing leather.

The crowd

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It was easy to chat to people amongst the crowd, partly because I told them I was reporting for IMAGE.ie, but also because the atmosphere was one of friendly and fun-loving inclusivity. I met a lot of people who had come to march with their colleagues alongside floats that had been orchestrated by their companies (the likes of Salesforce, Microsoft and Accenture), but I also met many people and groups of friends who had come to march simply to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.

Two burly-looking men I got chatting to were Matt and Ryan. They were kitted out in rugby gear and when I asked them what was making them proud that day, Ryan smiled a big smile and said that he was proud to be able to be a rugby player (and by all accounts they are very good rugby players), and be gay, and for it not to be an issue.

Then there was the young, shy lad from Cabra who confided that this was his first Pride so he was a bit nervous, but that he was enjoying the experience all the same. He waved his flag gently, his eyes full of awe as he watched our fellow marchers flounce around with all the confidence of Ricky Martin at, well, presumably at any point in time really.

Marching along the parade

All along the streets leading from St Stephens Green to Smithfield Square people cheered us on with whoops and waving. Around the smithfield area I spotted a whole family who had set up a “watching station” outside their home, complete with a table full of snacks and fizzy drinks on the grass and kitchen chairs set out in front of the gate for the older family members to enjoy the passing spectacle.

The march itself was a lot longer than I anticipated (I have surpassed my step count for the month), but despite the length of the route and the heat, the energy amongst the crowd didn’t wane. If anything it only increased, thanks to the encouragement from cheering bystanders, and from the likes of Lady Gaga and Lady Marmalade whose music pumped out from the Tesco float behind us (which, it has to be said, was an unexpectedly “lit” float).

Finishing up at Smithfield

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Once we got to Smithfield Square (where the parade’s afterparty was taking place), I was both parched and bursting to go to the bathroom; the reality of an afternoon spent walking out in the sun. In the queue for the toilets I met Celine; a soft-spoken woman in her 60’s from Canada. Celine told me she was in Dublin visiting her two lesbian daughters, a detail which she announced with a huge amount of pride. She said she had come over this week specifically to show her support, which I believed, what with her being covered in rainbow facepaint and decked-out head to toe in pride memorabilia.

A rally then took place at the square, and while speakers acknowledged how far Ireland has come in terms of LGBTQ+ rights, they reminded the crowd that same sex marriage is still illegal in Northern Ireland. The presence of groups such as BeLongTo Youth Services, Outhouse and others who were campaigning for the needs of the LGBTQ+ community (e.g. the need for improved sex education in schools and the availability of PrEP, a revolutionary anti-HIV drug) also reinforced this message that more work still needs to be done.

The spirit of Pride

As well as being slightly exhausted, I came away from the Dublin Pride parade feeling rejuvenated and with a renewed sense of hope about the direction our society is going in. This is an event that teaches people of every age that it’s ok to be yourself. In fact, it’s more than ok; the sentiment at Pride is that it’s precisely this individuality which brings out the rainbow colours of life, which something that deserves support and encouragement.

Click here to see Geraldine's video account of the Dublin Pride parade

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