David Roche was honoured posthumously with the role of grand marshal of the Cork LGBT Pride Parade, five weeks after his sudden death. He was represented at the front of the 5,000-plus crowd by his partner Paul O’Shea, his mother Phil, and sister Bridget.
Paul said the advice Dave would have given to parade participants — and those who had not yet come out — was to let their light shine, reflecting the theme of the parade and the week-long Cork LGBT Pride Festival that ended yesterday.
“He was a beacon of light for so many people struggling with their identity,” said Paul, as thousands gathered in the drizzle for the after-party on Grand Parade. “His advice to so many people was to be yourself, and to glow from within, and never let anybody dim your light.”
Despite the sadness felt by Dave’s family, friends, and so many others he helped through his work with the Gay Project Cork and other groups, it was a colourful celebration of all things LGBT. Parade onlookers took refuge in city-centre bus shelters and doorways, showing their support with rainbow flags, wigs, hats, and garlands.
For Craig Hourihan, the relatively small scale of his first Cork parade made it a better experience than those he had attended in Dublin and Paris.
“It’s really different to some of the bigger ones, but I’m enjoying this one more, because it’s more compact,” he said.
He and his boyfriend, Tyrone Power, had enjoyed a host of events during the week, including drag queen Alyssa Edwards’ show on Saturday night.
Also at her first Cork Pride parade was Anne Kuyit from the Netherlands, who agreed there was more of a community feel than at similar events.
“In Amsterdam, more straight people join in just for the drinking and the partying, but it’s definitely more of a celebration of the LGBT identity at this. It’s really great,” she said.
A key to the big crowds, said to be significantly larger than last year, when the weather was more favourable, was the support and participation of families and the wider community.
Alan O’Carroll from Ballincollig was enjoying the after-party with his children Caitlyn, Luke, and Mattie, and their mum Paula.
“It’s something really nice for the kids to go to,” he said. “I work with a lot of people from all walks of life, and this is a chance for the gang to enjoy all the colour and the music.”
The success of the past week — which saw numbers at many events more than double on 2016 attendances — has been attributed by organisers to greater awareness and acceptance by the public arising from the marriage equality referendum.
“Some of the growth in our events is, no doubt, down to the positive attitudes engendered during the marriage equality referendum two years ago,” said festival chairman Clive Davis.
“But we don’t want people to think everything is perfect; there’s still a lot of work to do. At our events, we are still hearing young people talking about being bullied at school, because they are different.”
The parade featured LGBT youth groups from Cork, Tipperary, Laois, and many other places, taking pride in the public support along the city’s streets.
Clarice Murnane — who was among a group of friends who travelled from Bantry in west Cork — said she enjoyed her second Cork Pride parade better than last year.
“There’s a lot better atmosphere, and it feels like there’s a lot more people today. It’s really good to see people come to support it,” she said.
Among those parading were LGBT football clubs and choirs, with solidarity also on show from Traveller groups and all the main political parties.
The event happened the day after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar offered his solidarity with the LGBT community in the North by attending a Belfast Pride event. He expressed his confidence that a decision in favour of same-sex marriage there would be made in due course by the Northern Ireland Assembly.