UK Government Deny Northern Ireland Same-Sex Marriage Intervention Pledge

Sinn Féin's Conor Murphy had claimed the UK Government would intervene if a restored Assembly failed to approve legislation.

Love Equality campaigners hold heart shaped balloons and banners

During an interview on BBC Radio Ulster, Conor Murphy of Sinn Féin had claimed that the UK Government had pledged they would intervene on the issue of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland if a restored Assembly failed to introduce legislation.

The issue has long been a sticking point in restoring a power sharing assembly, with Sinn Féin adamant they want same-sex marriage and an Irish Language Act introduced in the region and the DUP repeatedly using the ‘petition of concern’ mechanism to block reform.

Murphy said live on radio – “The issue of equal marriage was going to be presented in the Assembly…If it failed, we had an assurance it would be passed by Westminster.” When pressed, Murphy would not confirm who had made the pledge, stating, “That was the commitment that was given. There are well above sufficient numbers in the House of Commons to pass equal marriage for the North to ensure the rights that people enjoy in Britain, and the rights that people enjoy in the South, are delivered here.”

However, a Government spokesperson denied the claim stating: “It has been the UK Government’s consistent position that the best way forward is for locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland to make decisions that affect the lives of the people they serve.”

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International and the Love Equality campaign stated they were also unaware of any such pledge. “We are not aware of any private assurance which the UK Government may have given to Sinn Fein last year. What we do know is that, as a draft DUP-Sinn Fein deal was shaping up last February, Karen Bradley gave an on-the-record response to a written question from Conor McGinn MP, which committed the Government only to allowing a free vote if backbenchers brought same-sex marriage legislation to Parliament. Just a week later, the political talks collapsed without agreement.”

The Love Equality campaign today announced a march for marriage equality will be held in Belfast on Saturday May 18. The organisers are demanding  that any re-established Stormont government must deliver marriage equality legislation and failing that, they want the UK Government to intervene to end discrimination against same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

Sarah McCanning, the partner of Lyra McKee, will speak at the march. She said, “If politicians won’t legislate for equal marriage at Stormont, then PM should do it at Westminster. That’s what I told Theresa May at Lyra’s funeral.”

Corrigan said, “Marriage equality in Northern Ireland is a litmus test for whether or not any future devolved government is committed to treating all citizens equally. If Stormont is incapable of delivering equality for people here, then it is the responsibility of the Westminster to end discrimination against the LGBT community.”

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