A debate has arisen between Sinn Féin and the DUP over who is to blame for the delays to same-sex marriage law in Northern Ireland.
DUP politician, Christopher Stalford, yesterday acknowledged that the party does not have the power to block marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
The party only has 28 Assembly Members and 30 signatories are required to pass a petition of concern.
Mr Stalford insisted that Sinn Féin was responsible for delaying marriage equality because it has not yet reached an agreement with the DUP to restore the Stormont Assembly.
He claimed that by “staying out of the assembly” Sinn Féin caused a delay to the marriage equality reform it wanted.
Today, Sinn Féin’s senior talks negotiator Conor Murphy said that there was a deal last year whereby if the Assembly failed to pass legislation on same-sex marriage the British Government would pass such legislation in Westminster.
“If (a motion on same-sex marriage) failed we had an assurance that it would be passed in Westminster,” he said.
“If the Assembly failed (to pass) or blocked the issue of equal marriage then it would be legislated for in Westminster,” Mr Murphy told BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan programme on Tuesday.
The DUP denies there was ever such a deal.
Talks are beginning today at Stormont to try and restore the Northern Irish Assembly. It will be attended by Tánaiste and Minister Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Northern Secretary Karen Bradley and negotiating teams from the DUP, Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the UUP and Alliance.
The DUP’s first openly gay candidate was elected on Friday. Alison Bennington was elected to the Antrim and Newtownabbey Council.
Arlene Foster welcomed what she said was a strong showing in the elections and said her party will look at a number of issues including “bad behaviour” by party members once the dust settles after last week’s Northern Ireland local elections.
“It sends out a message that the DUP is open to everyone who signs up to the policies of the Democratic Unionist Party, as Alison did,” Foster told UTV.
“There are people who are uncomfortable, I think it would be right to acknowledge that, but as I indicated last week, our policy in relation to same-sex marriage has not changed,” she said.
Prior to Bennington’s election, DUP MLA Jim Wells said her candidacy was a “betrayal” and that the late Ian Paisley, former leader of the DUP, would be “aghast” at the decision to run an openly-gay candidate.
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