Campaigners celebrate as Northern Ireland moves closer to equal marriage

"This is the most excited we have been," said marriage campaigner, John O'Doherty, Director of The Rainbow Project.

Northern Ireland campaigners marriage equality

Following the landmark news that same-sex marriage would be legalised in Northern Ireland within three months if the devolved government remains stalled, longtime campaigners have found much to celebrate.

Activists gathered on Tuesday to watch the proceedings at Westminster.

Celebrations were bittersweet as friends of murdered journalist Lyra McKee reflected on what this would have meant to her as she was one of many prominent campaigners for Marriage Equality in Northern Ireland.

Mural of Lyra McKee

Her partner Sara Canning said the gay marriage vote was “absolutely momentous” but she’s “heartbroken” because she had hoped to marry Lyra.

She told Channel 4 News: “I’m torn between over the moon for my friends who will be able to, hopefully should this pass down the line, marry their partners and feel like an equal part of society.

“I’m also heartbroken because the person I wanted to marry isn’t here to see it happen and I know it was something Lyra was very passionate about.

“She went to the marriage equality marches and she was excited about the future and seeing it pass in Northern Ireland.”

Fergal McFerran, who knew Ms McKee, said: “It is incredibly poignant that today is a day that I’m sure Lyra and her partner Sara would have been looking forward to and it’s incredibly sad that she’s not here to see the progress that has been made, but I think the LGBT community as a whole take inspiration from her every day.”

He said the vote had made for a “fantastic day”. “It is a huge celebration for the LGBT community but also for Northern Ireland as a whole,” he said.

Cara McCann, the director of HereNI, a group that supports lesbians and bisexual women, hopes to be one of the first same-sex couples to get married in Northern Ireland.

“I’m absolutely overjoyed,” said Ms McCann.

“This is the closest we have ever come to achieving marriage equality in the north of Ireland — it’s a good day for equality.”

She added: “Our community has suffered because of these inequalities, and hopefully we will be on an equal footing on this issue to our peers and our family and friends.

“It’s equality for us, but also for our children as well, this impacts on our kids as well, so they will be treated as equals in the near future too.”

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