Founding member of Dublin Pride says it’s ‘become a cheap opportunity for businesses to promote themselves’, backs alternative event

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A founding member of Dublin’s Pride celebration will not be attending this year’s event.

An organisation called Queer Action Ireland is organising an alternative event in Dublin in protest over the inclusion of gardai (police officers) in this year’s parade, as well as the festival’s media partnership with state broadcaster RTE.

Queer Action Ireland says the inclusion of such groups takes away from the fundamental reason for LGBTQ pride parades worldwide, which is to remember, celebrate and continue to fight for rights.

Backing the alternative event is Izzy O Rourke, one of three people who began the current run of Dublin Pride in 1992 by handing out leaflets and borrowing a minivan for a small parade of around 400 people.

“When I’m taking part in Dublin Pride these days, I feel like I’m Dr Frankenstein chasing his monster,” she said.

“I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t go to Dublin Pride, I understand why people go, but today’s celebration has become a cheap opportunity for businesses to promote themselves, and for state bodies to give an appearance of inclusivity without having to do anything very substantial.

“There’s a chequered history between the Garda and Dublin Pride. For years I was liaison with the Garda, and the truth is we weren’t treated very respectfully, we never got the policing we asked for and we were not protected.

“I have no objection of members of the Garda taking part in a personal capacity, but we’ve forgotten what Pride is supposed to be about. It’s about resistance and solidarity, the fact that we will defend each other in good times and bad.

“That’s what it commemorates, and there’s a recalibration needed.”

The Pride alternative will take place at the same time as Dublin’s main parade on June 29.

An Garda Siochana announced in April that uniformed gardai will take part in this year’s parade for the first time.

Announced by Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, the move was labelled “a significant step that demonstrates An Garda Siochana’s commitment to building the inclusive Ireland”.

Queer Action Ireland says the inclusion of gardai is an affront to the foundations of Pride.

“The participation of gardai in uniform in this year’s parade is in direct opposition to the liberatory principles of Pride.

“The police continue to target LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, migrant and other ethnic minority people in Ireland today. Just this week, gardai have arrested migrant sex workers on both sides of the country.

“Cops marching in Pride is not a sign of progress, but rather a representation of the further cooptation of our struggle. While police will make concessions and recruit from our queer and migrant populations, their role remains the same.”

Queer Action Ireland also says it cannot march alongside the festival’s media partner RTE: “A broadcaster who welcomed transphobic hate speech on to the air not months ago, and whose commitment to so-called ‘balanced’ reporting has led to the perpetuation of dangerous ideas and rhetoric around the island of Ireland, that endangers the lives of the queer community.”

RTE director-general Dee Forbes replied: “As Ireland’s national public media organisation, with a unique place in Ireland’s cultural landscape, we are proud to promote our vision to celebrate Ireland’s rich diversity by supporting the Dublin LGBTQ+ Pride Festival.”

Pride celebrations worldwide have been criticised for over-commercialisation, with claims that large multinational corporations use the events as a marketing platform, without meaningful policy or advocacy behind their inclusion.

“We cannot march in a parade that so readily welcomes corporations who see our community as no more than a marketing demographic,” Queer Action Ireland said.

The Pride Alternative starts at 12pm on Rosie Hackett Bridge, and organisers say the event will be about “listening to each other, highlighting queer struggles, and drawing attention to the issues that face our community today”.

Jed Dowling, director of Dublin LGBTQ Pride Festival, said: “Pride is always a mix of the personal and political.

“No one owns Pride, nor should they. We never want to tell anyone what it should mean to them or how they should express it. Diversity and inclusion of all parts of our community is always welcome and never a bad thing.”

Dublin’s Pride celebrations run from June 21 to 30.

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