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‘Pride festival game-changer, but keep politics out’

PEOPLE need to “put political and religious opinions aside” and welcome a gay pride festival in Fermanagh to much needed support for the countless LGBT people in our community, according to a local man who attended the event. 
Last weekend tens of thousands of revellers descended on Belfast for the annual Pride parade. For one bisexual Fermanagh man it was his first Pride celebration, and it was an emotional event.
“It was an experience to say the least. I’ve been to St Patrick’s day, the Twelfth and now Pride in Belfast and it is a completely different experience. Pride is just so different. There is a different feel, atmosphere and all-round buzz,” he told the Herald.  
 “Pride as many know is about love and wider equality issues here in Northern Ireland and around the world. Let’s face it, no matter what your opinion is on the LGBT community or marriage equality, those in the LGBT bracket are just not treated to the same level and spend a lot of their early life struggling and hiding, causing wider issues. Pride though shows people it’s OK to be different. In fact, we support you being different.”
Personally, the local man said being at the parade “actually for once made me feel proud about who I am.”
“I’ve never hid who I am, but at the same time I have never felt pride and I believe Belfast Pride gives people that opportunity. Fermanagh pride would provide local people with the same possibilities,” he said. 
Suggesting a weekend festival may be a better idea for Fermanagh than a full parade, to begin with, the man said Pride could bring economic benefits to the county too. 
He said in Belfast all the hotels were sold out at the weekend and people had flocked from across Ireland, the UK and beyond. He said the event would have great tourism potential here in the county. 
“It’s a huge opportunity and one that Fermanagh should grab and run with, one everyone should support,” he said. 
“Put the political and religious opinions aside and think of the investment,” he said. 
Overall, though, he said the impact of having a Pride festival locally would be immeasurable: “Everyone knows someone in the LGBT community in Fermanagh they may not know it. Many hide, many suffer, many in their older years off life will never tell anyone and have had to live a lie just to please others. It’s sad and Pride may give them that chance.”
Meanwhile, in another comment on the Herald Facebook page a reader who attended the Belfast Pride event wrote: “ I was at Belfast pride this year with youth action NI and we were lucky enough to even walk in the parade. 
“It opened my mind so much and it was one of the most amazing things ever. It was just somewhere where everyone was accepted.”
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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA