Sinn Féin tell Belfast Pride: No Stormont deal without equal marriage

Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Féin Vice President, said Stormont had failed the public by not passing equal marriage laws and blamed the DUP.

Split screen of a Sin Féin Pride march and their Vice President Michelle O'Neill

During the Pride Talks Back event at Belfast Pride, Sinn Féin Vice President, Michelle O’Neill, told those gathered that there would be no hope of powersharing in Stormont before the October deadline unless equal marriage was on the cards.

While speakers from the SDLP, Alliance, Green Party, People Before Profit, Pup and the UUP were also in attendance, no member of the DUP decided to speak at the Pride event.

Following the passing of landmark legislation in the UK Parliament, abortion and equal marriage in the Northern Ireland will become law by October 21 this year, unless the Northern Ireland Executive has been re-established by that date. Now with Sinn Féin saying they will not make a deal on power sharing in Stormont without the inclusion of equal marriage, it could be suggested its passing is a foregone conclusion.

O’Neill stated, “It’s our determination to deliver marriage equality, we must deliver marriage equality. In 2019, for anybody to seriously say any legislator can sit and actively deny or discriminate against one section of society is just not acceptable.” 

The Vice President continued however, “It doesn’t sit comfortably with me as an Irish republican to ask the British Government to legislate but if rights are going to continually be denied and the Assembly can’t deliver, then that is the context in which Westminster can deliver the legislation. Any deal that’s reached in terms of the restoration of the Assembly will have to include marriage equality, that’s the bottom line.”

Some of the speakers assembled wanted to see changes in the DUP’s ability to use the petition of concern veto to block the passing of equal marriage and abortion access when public support for both were in the majority. 

Naomi Long, the Alliance leader, stated, “I want reform so that we can’t use the petition of concern to block enabling people’s rights.” Long also stressed that she did not want equal marriage to come about as part of a powersharing deal in Stormont – “I don’t believe that’s enough because it might be equal marriage today but there will be other LGBT issues tomorrow that will need to be addressed. I want an Assembly that’s structures are sound and capable of dealing with progressive rights legislation day in and day out, not just a special deal on one issue.”

Doug Beattie from the UUP agreed, adding, “Russian roulette cannot be played with equal marriage…If we go back into an Executive again and the petition of concern still sits at 30, then it’s giving the DUP the ammunition.”

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