Ulster’s Democratic Unionist Party has finally participated in a Gay Pride event in Belfast.
The conservative Unionist DUP was represented by new Belfast Mayor Gavin Robinson at a cross party event on Tuesday night.
Robinson made history when he accepted an invitation to sit on the panel of a public debate ahead of Saturday’s Gay Pride march in the city.
Robinson stood by many of the DUP’s controversial policies, including opposition to gay marriage, and a lifetime ban on gay people donating blood, at the debate.
But the Irish Times reports that his presence has been welcomed as a sign of softening attitudes.
Gay and Lesbian lobby group director John O’Doherty told the paper: “It’s really positive.
“This is the very first time the DUP has attended any sort of public gay event and that’s something to be celebrated.
“The only disappointing thing about the evening was that the DUP’s views remain the same, but that’s the next challenge. This is a good start.”
The 27-year-old Robinson surprised organisers with his presence as he ensured all six of the North’s main political parties were represented at the discussion.
SDLP panellist Conall McDevitt said: “The atmosphere was lively but not tense.
“I’ve been attending this event for years, and every year it gets more positive. The atmosphere used to be fraught, now it is much more cordial.
“Ireland is changing fast, and I really think Gay Pride is slowly but surely changing attitudes in the North.”
DUP representatives have been slammed in the past for their outspoken views on homosexuality.
Ian Paisley Jnr said in 2007 that he was ‘repulsed by gay and lesbianism’.
Two years later, Iris Robinson described homosexuality as an ‘abomination’.