After the hiatus of the Covid-19 years, Fermanagh Pride has re-emerged in the community, with the group inspired by the ongoing success of neighbouring organisations, and now a small group has emerged to co-ordinate future local Pride-related endeavours.

Having formed a committee, created an online presence, and with the help of the Council, they aim to develop their group capacity in the first year.

The hope is to deliver LGBT+ Pride parades in following years. In the interim, there are a number of path-finding events lined up for the summer months, with Fermanagh Pride keen to recruit new members.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, chair, Bernie Smith said: “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights in the UK and Ireland have improved greatly in recent years.

“[These range] from the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland in the 1970s, towards almost full legal equality at the moment – with the advent of reforms including gender recognition, civil partnerships, equal marriage, anti-discrimination and equality laws and protections.”

However, expressing the thoughts of the entire committee, Bernie said: “There is still much work to be done in terms of social reform at home.

“Violent crimes against LGBT+ people are on the increase, many hate crimes and hate incidents go unreported.

“Many same-sex partners are afraid to show affection, to even hold each other’s hands in public, fearing verbal and physical attack.

“Many children and young people who [fall within the broad LGBT+ category] are subjected to homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse from their peers.”

Fermanagh Pride members say many LGBT+ people in our own local area remain hidden, afraid of coming out to their families and communities.

Bernie added: “Parents have described limited LGBT+ awareness education in our schools. Some of our members have even been subjected to egregious and, thankfully, now banned ‘conversion therapies’ by their families.”

As part of their relaunch, the group have shared some testimonies from members.

Chair Bernie is a young woman in her 20s and she recalled coming out in a smaller rural community, and how important a group like Fermanagh Pride is for the mental health of LGBT+ people.

David McDermott from Enniskillen said: “I hope the efforts of the group will speak to the mums and dads of LBGT+ children who feel unsure for their futures, [giving] a reassurance that all will be well.”

Nigel Wiltshire, who is from west Fermanagh, spoke about the combined challenges of being LGBT+ and neurodiverse. The group has helped him fundraise for the Autism NI charity.

Alan Potter, a business owner from Lisbellaw, reflected on the regret of needing to move away to a city in order to come out. “I hope for a future where this was not necessary,” he added.

Jennifer, a trans woman originally from Belfast, lives peacefully in a small Fermanagh village. She enjoys the social aspects of the group but she would “love to see a centre for trans people in every county”.

Shauna Deeney, originally from Manchester, now living in Enniskillen, added: “I am very happy to have found this group as I had struggled to find an LGBT+ group in Fermanagh for five years.”

Fermanagh Pride is starting small, but has big ambitions for the future. With a positive outlook, the committee stated: “Pride is a movement recalling the trials the LGBT+ community has endured, and [aims] to rejoice in the triumphs of trailblazing individuals who have bravely fought – and continue to fight – for full equality.

“Pride is both a jubilant communal celebration of visibility, and a personal celebration of self-worth and dignity.”

The group are hosting a fundraising drag show, ‘Splat Goes The Gasworks’, on May 27 in the Gasworks Bar, Enniskillen. Early bird tickets are available from Eventbrite. Further information on Fermanagh Pride and their social events can be found by visiting their Facebook page.