Rainbow of colour as Cork shows its gay pride

Sunshine, stewards in high-vis pink, Diana Ross belting out about coming out — some confused tourists could be forgiven for wondering if they were in Cork or South Beach, Florida, as thousands took to the streets yesterday to celebrate being gay.

Rainbow of colour as Cork shows its gay pride

Heading up the loud and proud carnival was Lord Mayor Catherine Clancy, perched on the back of an open-top silver Mercedes, flanked by the trademark rainbow colours of the gay community.

Thousands followed behind, many walking, others packed in an open-top double-decker bus normally used for sightseeing tours.

No gay parade would be complete without some kind of homage to The Wizard of Oz, and its main characters were all there, aboard a float, from where the hits were churned out.

Colourful, flamboyant, and with all the ingredients for a cracking post-parade party, it began and ended down the South Mall where Electric, a popular bar, offered a special “Proud as Punch” cocktail.

Gardaí estimated an attendance of 3,000 at the event, which marked the end of the Cork Pride Festival.

Festival chairman Clive Davis said the purpose of the parade was to raise the visibility of gay people.

“In essence, it’s about getting a conversation going on the streets. People will see us and talk about it and ask their friends if they saw and maybe it will help those who are considering coming out. It may give them the courage to come out when they see so many other people like themselves.”

Political parties including Sinn Féin and Fine Gael were out in support of gay pride, among them Jerry Buttimer, Fine Gael TD for Cork South Central, who has spoken openly about being gay. Republic of Telly’s Handy Sandie was there with her loudspeaker, upping the mortification quota for anyone she spoke to.

It was a well-behaved crowd that turned out for the eighth annual parade, marching this year to the theme of “20 Years Proud”, a reference to the 20-year anniversary of the landmark legal victory decriminalising homosexuality.

Clive remembers how he had his bags packed ready to leave home when he decided to break the news that he was gay, at age 24.

“I was fully expecting my mother to say ‘get out’. Instead, she said ‘I know’. I was disgusted she knew and hadn’t told me,” he said. While being gay today was sometimes portrayed as being trendy, it still posed major challenges, especially for the older generation, he said.

“There is still bullying going on in schools. People use the phrase ‘that’s such a gay thing to do’ in a very negative way.”

The festival, he said, amidst the theatre and fun, had a serious message about social inclusion, acceptance, equality, and visibility.

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