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Progress Towards Pride On the Island of Ireland

24 Feb 2024
by Pádraig Rice, Policy and Research Manager of LGBT Ireland
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In our last issue, we included a video on the collaboration between LGBT Ireland in the Republic and The Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland on a campaign to ban conversion therapy across the island. We asked Pádraig Rice, Policy and Research Manager of LGBT Ireland, to share his experiences and outline what’s been happening since this initial collaboration. 

A strong relationship has developed between LGBTQIA+ organisations in both jurisdictions and this has resulted in further collaboration on many projects and events. 

The All Ireland LGBTQIA+ Forum was setup in 2023 as a way of marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. Its goal was to foster new connections via North-South and East-West links between LGBTQIA+ organisations and community groups. Modelled on the successful All Island Women’s Forum, the LGBTQIA+ Forum acts as a mechanism to bring people together for constructive and inclusive discussions about the unique opportunities and challenges we face as LGBTQIA+ civil society groups. 

The first meeting of the Forum, on 20 April 2023, brought together the growing collection of Pride festivals, which have popped up in all corners of the island and which had not previously been gathered together. Twenty-five different groups were represented at the first meeting, including Navan Pride, Neuro Pride, Belfast Pride, Dublin Pride, Cork Pride, Wicklow Pride, Wexford Pride, Bród na Gaeltachta, OutWest, Omagh Pride, Cork Trans Pride, Clonmel Pride, Inishowen (Donegal) Pride, and Quare Clare.  

A wealth of information was created from this initial meeting.  

There is a hunger for more collaboration and cooperation between LGBTQI+ groups 

It has been much repeated at Forum meetings following 20 April, that people were delighted to have the space to come together to share ideas, insights, and experiences. All the Pride groups are grassroots, independent community organisations and, as a result, some of the newer groups have had limited interactions with similar organisations elsewhere. As a result, they felt newly empowered by having the space to gather. This is something the forum hopes to build on over the next year.

We have different experiences, but common challenges 
A huge diversity of experiences was shared, from the large urban Prides that have been running for decades, to the small rural Prides that are just starting out. There were also North-South differences. For example, some of the Prides in Northern Ireland must engage with the Parades Commission, which is unique to Northern Ireland. They also share common challenges; one of those is the fear of disruption from the far right. One group spoke about the far-right impact they experienced last year. We agreed to do a longer and more in-depth session with the Hope and Courage Collective,Gardaí, and PSNI as a follow-up. 

There is a huge potential for positive change 
In the long run, there is potential for a pride group in every community.  Contributions from two organisers were particularly striking.  One of the participants said that last year she stopped and asked herself, “Is my county ready for this?” It was! Another speaker from Northern Ireland spoke powerfully about the healing effects of walking through your hometown with a Pride flag. She said that the heart of her town had been ripped out during the troubles, but it was partially restored last year with Pride. These stories provided a wonderful reminder of the role Pride can play in bringing communities together.  


LGBTQIA+ communities in Ireland and across the world have historically been marginalised and oppressed. Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Northern Ireland in 1982 and in the Republic of Ireland in 1993. As a result, homophobia, discrimination, and stigmatisation continue. A report by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in 2019 showed that 33% of LGBTQIA+ people were discriminated against in the previous two years, the highest of any cohort in Irish society.  

In recent years, we have also seen a rise in hate crimes north and south. A new report published in February 2023 by ILGA showed that violence against LGBTQ+ people across Europe has reached the highest levels in a decade.  

Borders are no barrier to hate or abuse. Sadly, many LGBTQIA+ people north and south are still subjected to harmful conversion practises. New research published by the Government of Ireland in February 2023 say that this should be outlawed. To be effective, we need an all island ban that protects people from this abuse.  

In recent years, new Pride festivals have popped up across the island. Most of these operate in isolation with no central support or coordination. There is also very limited all-island research on the LGBTQIA+ population and the East-West connections are currently weak.  


The All Ireland LGBTQIA+ Forum provides us with a great opportunity to address these challenges together. By gathering as civil society groups, we can share learnings and expertise. For example, in the North there is a dedicated support service for the victims of hate crime. We have a lot to learn from each other about these programmes and supports. Equally, lessons can be shared on banning conversion practices and other human rights issues. 

The bringing together of all the rural Pride groups is a real opportunity to strengthen and grow these festivals in areas where there are no formal LGBTQIA+ support services.  

This project has planted the seeds of new East-West partnerships, which we also hope will be developed in future.

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