In a Pride first and to the astonishment of many whom were present at the Pride Talks Back event at The Europa Hotel in August, Belfast City Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson of the DUP made an unexpected appearance marking the first DUP appearance at a Pride Event in its 22 year long history.Democratic Unionist Party members have made numerous offensive anti-gay comments in recent years and have been outspoken in their distaste for LGBT lifestyles and culture.
However in an unexpected turn of events, the DUP decided to accept this years invitation from the Belfast Pride Committee and Mr Robinson who has represented the Pottinger area of east Belfast since March 2010 became the first ever DUP member to take part in a Pride event. Mr Robinson participated in the discussions covering issues such as gay marriage and so-called conversion therapies. The Lord Mayor told reporters he wanted to “engage with every section of our society” and there was optimism that this would open a channel of dialogue within the DUP over the issues being discussed.
Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson welcomed the DUP’s involvement calling it a “pinch yourself moment” and added “The DUP are on a learning curve and it was good to see Gavin here tonight. I’m glad he accepted the invite and I hope it’s a sign of things to come,” she said.
Other speakers at the event included Conal McDevitt from the SDLP, Ulster Unionist Michael Copeland, Anna Lo from Alliance and Stephen Agnew from the Green Party (pictured above).
Mr Robinson welcomed the “lively” debate but did not say his position has softened.”If you’re asking if it has softened, that depends on hard you think it was in the first place,” the mayor told UTV. “To be honest I always think that it’s useful to talk about issues because it gives you an alternative view. That doesn’t mean I’m going to water down my position – my position is in variance to many of the politicians and pride people in this event but that does not mean it is wrong or a view I shouldn’t hold, and it doesn’t mean it is intolerant to hold it.
“It’s part of the discussion and it was a good discussion we had tonight.”
It was great to see the DUP making an effort to get involved in debating these issues and shows the party can take part in open dialogue with the LGBT Community. There weren’t any miraculous changes of opinion, softening of views or commitments to change but it is the little things that make the big things happen and we should be optimistic that the DUP will seek to take part in future discussions regarding LGBT issues.