DUP leader Arlene Foster has asserted that despite the tragedy of out journalist Lyra McKee, her party’s stance on gay marriage remains unbudged.
McKee was shot dead in a suspected terrorist attack while reporting on a riot outbreak in Derry on April 18. A prominent figure in the LGBT+ community, Lyra McKee wrote for several publications on the consequences of The Troubles and spoke publicly about her experience growing up gay in Northern Ireland.
Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered for Lyra McKee’s funeral in Belfast, including President Michael D Higgins, Leo Varadkar, Theresa May, and DUP leader Arlene Foster.
Following the congregation, Foster was asked whether her party’s stance on same-sex marriage was subject to reconsideration, given that McKee was one of those affected. She responded:
“We have a long-standing policy which hasn’t changed. That remains the position of the party. That doesn’t mean I cannot sympathise and empathise with Sara and say to her that we feel her love.
“Her loss was all of our loss because this was a young woman who was doing great things in journalism and living her life in a city that she adopted. You shouldn’t conflate the two issues of empathy and sympathy and a political issue which is the definition of marriage.”
In 2015, the Northern Irish assembly voted on the possibility of legalising gay marriage, but the DUP put forward a ‘petition of concern’, which meant that cross-community support was required, effectively blocking the proposal from progressing.
Foster admitted, however, that although the DUP shares responsibility for the collapse of Stormont earlier this year, it did not contribute to Lyra’s death:
“It [the violence] was fuelled by people who wanted to use violence to further their own warped political agenda. That’s why Lyra is dead, and I think most people objectively think that is right”
Despite having an openly gay candidate running in the local elections, the DUP continues to oppose marriage equality and their empathy for Lyra does not change their enthusiastic denial of human rights.
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