City's first Gay pride parade as part of week long celebration
Examiner 15th May 2006
By Colette Sheridan
Cork's first Gay parade will take place on June 4th in the City Centre as part of Cork Pride 2006. The festival, which will be launched by the Lord Mayor on May 29th, is expected to attract 3,000 people with about 100 people taking part in the parade itself.
"I expect to see an over-representation of drag queens in the parade," says David Roche, community development manager of the Cork Gay Project. "The average gay man goes to work, has a mortgage and tends not to be seen. It's only the very flamboyant and outspoken members of any community that get to be seen. So I expect the parade to reflect that."
He said that Cork Pride has taken place " in some form over the last ten to fifteen years " but a parade was never considered a possibility until this year. "In previous years, we felt the city didn't have the populationof 'out' gays and lesbians. But I think that has changed. Cork is now a very fair city. It's as cosmopolitan as the best of them. There are whole new (gay) youth groups coming up who have no concept of what it was like to be gay 20 years ago. Most people don't even realise it was illegal 13 years ago."
The parade will start at the Grand Parade and will take place in the South Mall and Patrick St. "We've decided to hold it on a Sunday so as not to interfere with business. We're part of the city. We don't want to hijack it. "
Other highlights of Cork Pride include the Gay Olympics at the Mardyke Arena on June 5th. "They're largely a parody. But what we are trying to get across is that gay men get involved in things like sports and politics." He added: "The Gay Olympics were so successful last year that we decided to hold them again. There will be things like a Mince Marathon and the High Heeled dash".
Cork Pride will also celebrate spirituality with a 'Diversity Service' on May 28th at Unitarian Church on Princes St Featuring Cork's Gay Choir, which has 15 members. The non-denominational service will be delivered by a woman who was the chaplin in the school that Mathew Sheppard attended. Sheppard, a victim of gay bashing, was beaten to death and his body was left hanging from a fence in Wyoming in the US some years ago. The service will be about respect and diversity. People will have a chance to light a candle for those they've lost.
While Cork Pride promises plenty of fanfare and flamboyance, Mr Roche points out that it is also as opportunity to highlight the isolation that many young people experience when they come out. "The stigma of being gay is waning somewhat", he added " but we still have a demand to run a helpline five nights of the week offering support. We want to let people know that they don't have to come into a gay bar in town. They can ring the helpline and express how they're feeling. "We also have a huge gay hillwalking group as well as drama groups."