Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Newry chosen to host UK & Ireland Pride Festival

The streets of Newry will be a carnival of colour and celebration next August, with as many as 50,000 people expected to attend the 2019 UK and Ireland Pride Festival.  The city has been chosen to host the flagship event after a successful bid submitted by the Pride in Newry team in conjunction with Newry Mourne and Down Council and Newry BID.

The announcement was made at the annual UK Pride Organisers Network (UKPON) conference in Glasgow on Sunday last (28th October). It will be the first time the event has been held in Ireland, north or south, and the Newry bid beat off stiff competition from Pride in Plymouth and Pride Cymru. 

The European Pride Organisers Association (EPOA) also announced that the city will host their next conference in March 2019, to coincide with Brexit weekend.

Commenting on the successful bid, Pride in Newry’s co-chair Pádraig Mullally said “We are delighted to have won UK and Ireland Pride 2019 against a backdrop of setbacks for the LGBTQI community in the North of Ireland. We will work hard to maximise the opportunities this status affords us and continue to fight tirelessly for equality in Northern Ireland.”

Rory Rafferty, Newry Pride Chairperson, said the win was a “good news story in a climate of uncertainty, setback and inequality.”

“In the immediate wake of the Supreme Court ruling on the gay cake case and indeed the failure of the latest private members bill on same sex marriage in Westminster on Friday, this status will reinvigorate a downtrodden but resolute community.”

“We are proud of Newry and are delighted to be the first on the Island of Ireland to be awarded such a coveted accolade.”

Congratulating Pride in Newry and Newry Rainbow Community for their tremendous win, Newry Mourne and Down Council Chairman, Councillor Mark Murnin, said,

“This is not only excellent news for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland, it represents an opportunity for all of us to showcase Newry to an international audience. 

“Newry is a welcoming and inclusive city and these factors were instrumental in the bid’s success. Thousands are expected to attend on the day and I would encourage everyone to get involved and support this diverse and dynamic festival.”

Alliance Newry representative, Helena Young, also congratulated Newry Pride organisers on their winning bid.

“This is fantastic news and is a tribute to everyone at Newry Pride, who work so hard throughout the year to showcase the best the LGBT community has to offer, both in Newry and further afield,” said Helena.

“Newry Pride is rightly seen as one of the highlights in the local Pride calendar and this award is proof of that.”

SDLP MLA Justin McNulty and party colleague councillor Pete Byrne said the successful bid was “fantastic news for Newry and in particular for the Newry Rainbow Community.”

“Pride and the ethos behind the movement is about equality, respect and tolerance. I can think of no better place than Newry to host these prestigious awards,” said Mr McNulty.

“We now need to see the statutory agencies row in behind this successful bid and help promote this region and indeed the work Newry Rainbow Community do in this area.”

Councillor Byrne said he had “the privilege of working with and getting to know many members of the NRC committee over the last three years and their commitment to fostering a place which allows for visibility and inclusion for LGBT people is relentless.”

“We cannot thank them enough for their efforts in delivering a message of hope and acceptance in our communities.

“Our attention must now move to delivering an extraordinary Pride In Newry festival in 2019,” added the SDLP councillor, who revealed he will be calling for the Tourism Events funding cap to be removed to ensure that the NRC committee has the resources that it needs “to pull off an event which will be talked about for years to come.”

“Newry has been given an opportunity to showcase itself and we must do all we can to support the NRC in its preparation for its festival next year,” said Mr Byrne.

“In addition to the UK and Ireland Pride, the European Pride Organisers Association have announced that they will be hosting their conference in Newry next March. I will be asking for Council to write to EPOA to offer its support ahead of their visit to ensure that they are fully accommodated. This is an exciting time for our district and a real opportunity to showcase the North as an open and inclusive society.”

Sinn Féin equality spokesperson MLA Megan Fearon, said the win was “a huge achievement and will be a boost for the area.”

Paying tribute to the Pride in Newry team, she added, “It is also a reward for all their hard work and determination in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in the north.

“In recent years we have seen large numbers on the streets of Newry in a display of unity and determination to end the disgraceful denial of rights, including marriage equality, by the DUP and facilitated by the British government in the north.

“Sinn Féin will continue to fight for equality for all our citizens so they can enjoy rights which are afforded to citizens elsewhere on these islands.”