In a reception in Stormont organised by PinkNews to address LGBT+ concerns, Arlene Foster, the controversial leader of the DUP spoke of her party’s resistance to same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland saying, “Just because we disagree on marriage does not mean that I don’t value the LGBT community”.
This is from the leader of a party whose member Ian Paisley Jnr called homosexual relationships “immoral, offensive and obnoxious” and whose member Iris Robinson stated “There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children”. The same party also used their petition of concern to block same-sex marriage the last time it was brought to the Assembly, despite a majority of MLAs voting in favour.
Arlene Foster continued, “I wanted to recognise that some of our brightest and best in this country are part of the LGBT community. I wanted to send a clear message from this event, that we are all someone’s child and we are all a valued part of this wonderful place we call home.”
Foster continued, “For my part, I believe I can hold to my principled position, particularly in relation to the definition of marriage, whilst respecting the diversity across our society. In Northern Ireland we have a very strong faith community and people of faith contribute in many different ways to society here including to our business community; they should be free to do so without having to abandon their faith.”
She ironically added: “If we truly believe in equality of opportunity for all in Northern Ireland, then we must respectfully engage and listen to each other’s viewpoints.”
The response to her speech was muted, with a smattering of applause across the room, the majority remaining silent.
Loud applause for SDLP leader Colum Eastwood who has just challenged Arlene Foster’s claim that “everyone here is equal”. He calls for equal marriage and a reform of the Petition of Concern. pic.twitter.com/huNYQQYrpc
— William Crawley (@williamcrawley) June 28, 2018
Foster joined a cross party group of politicians at the event, the rest of whom were very much in favour of equal rights.
Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Michelle O’Neill referred to the marriage referendum in the South as an aim for politicians in the North: “What was once a conservative state is no longer. Much more needs to be done, the focus is here in the North… People here must enjoy the same rights as everyone else.”
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