Dublin came to a standstill this afternoon as thousands of people lined the city streets to celebrate Pride.
A parade from Parnell Street to Merrion Square saw groups march, dance and sing their way through the city centre cheered on by huge crowds.
Those marching said they were taking part to promote and celebrate inclusivity.
Many said it meant something more to them after the pandemic.
“Ever since Covid people are just being themselves more, they are dressing way more out there and I just feel so happy to see people being themselves. It is so wonderful,” said Dubliner Laura Harper, who was watching the parade from a spot near O’Connell Bridge.
“I couldn’t love it more. I am celebrating Pride because I’m a lesbian and I know so many people that aren’t able to celebrate. I’m doing it for everybody and for me and anybody that can’t in anyway because I want to be proud for all of us.”
Aisling Cullen marched carrying a non-binary flag and said it was important to celebrate inclusivity.
“I am celebrating Pride so everybody can be free to be their authentic selves at work, in normal life, every day, no matter where they are or who they are with everybody should be able to be themselves.
“I am having the best time. It is so exciting to be here, to be marching here and especially after the pandemic. It is so special to be celebrating every identity in the LGBTQIA+ alphabet.”
Lucas Marquez from Brazil was celebrating his first Pride since coming out by marching in a long flowing red dress with a rainbow train. He moved to Ireland four years ago and came out after moving to Dublin, he said.
“Now I don’t need to hide anymore, I can be who I am,” he added. “Pride is about what you are now.”
Róisín Maher said she was marching to celebrate diversity.
“I just think we should be living in a world where diversity is accepted, it is the norm and everybody no matter their colour, creed, ethnicity or orientation should be celebrated. I am having a wonderful time. The buzz in Dublin at the moment is unbelievable and after Covid it is what we needed.”
As the parade returned to the streets of the capital for the first time since the pandemic began, among those taking part were young people, LGBT+ support groups, Ukrainian nationals, and Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
As street vendors shouted out deals on pride flags and flower necklaces, the parade took off from the GPO on O'Connell Street to a downpour of rain, before the skies cleared for the rest of the celebratory and protest march.
The colourful spectacle featured support groups and sporting and cultural organisations from around the country.
Among the chants heard from the march were "hey hey, ho ho, homophobia has got to go", and "one, two, three, four, open up the closet door".
People were seen running from the parade to embrace rainbow-clad friends and family watching the event from the crowd.
The parade marched past Custom House Quay before crossing the River Liffey and ending at Merrion Square, where a full-day festival is being held.
Jamie Kenny, operations and outreach manager of Dublin Pride, said ahead of the parade that it has tried to go "a bit bigger" for its return after the two-year pandemic hiatus, and has tried to be "as sustainable as possible".
"We're trying to be carbon neutral," he said.
With a few exceptions such as emergency vehicles and vehicles for people with disabilities, most floats will be push-pull carts, he said, and organisers have also been "conscious" of limiting waste and single-use plastics.
"That's been a challenge, but it's been an interesting one, and once you do it one year, sure we can just replicate it the following year," Mr Kenny said.
Mr Kenny said that the parade is "incredibly important for our community".
He said that in the wake of an "increase in homophobic and transphobic violence, it's also a time where we can come together".
"One thing about our community is that we are great at banding together at tough and difficult times, and having Pride allows our community to have that space where we can all be together, very visible, celebrate the achievements we've made, make a bit of a ruckus about the things that we still need to see."
More than 800 young LGBTQ+ people are also taking part in Pride celebrations alongside Belong To and Youth Work Ireland, this represents many young people who may have not experienced Pride or other LGBT+ events before, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Maybe you came out during the pandemic, you didn't know what services were there, and being able to see all those support organisations marching in the parade, they can engage with that," Mr Kenny said.
"It's been an incredibly tough year for everyone.
"If you are on the streets of Dublin, give people a cheer - they've earned it."
Ahead of the event, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said the parade was “an important opportunity to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by LGBTI+ people, to promote diversity and inclusion in society and to champion equality for all people".
She welcomed the participation of more than 1,500 public servants from government departments, An Garda Síochána, the HSE and various arms of the state in the parade under the banner Proud To Work For Ireland, more than doubling the 600 public servants who took part in the 2019 parade.
"I am delighted I will be walking alongside my Department of Justice colleagues, the broader public service, and the gardaí.
"All of those marching are proud to work for Ireland every day and I am proud to walk with them," she said.