Watch: Ed Miliband gets schooled on LGBT rights in Northern Ireland
Ed Miliband has been challenged to take a stronger stance calling for gay rights in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s devolved assembly this week voted to reject same-sex marriage for a fourth time – days after the country’s Health Minister Jim Wells stepped down after linking gay parents to child abuse.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has recently pledged to be a “warrior” for LGBT rights, was challenged to stand up for Northern Ireland last week on Radio 1 Newsbeat’s Live Lounge by Mary Hassan, an audience member from Londonderry.
Ms Hassan said: “I’m absolutely sick and tired of my country being ignored by party leaders. Labour’s LGBT manifesto made some great promises… but it didn’t address the situation in Northern Ireland once. You promised to be a warrior for LGBT rights, and as far as I can see it you’re avoiding the battlefield.
“What specifically are you going to do to ensure Northern Ireland keeps pace? I’d like a promise from you here today, that you will push and pressure Northern Ireland to follow suit, and that you won’t just retreat to your second kitchen when the heat gets too high.”
Mr Miliband avoided making a direct pledge on the issue – asking her to clarify the issue, before saying: “One of the things about devolved government is that decisions are taken in Northern Ireland. I think given where Northern Ireland was twenty or thirty years ago… again, I understand your frustrations, I totally do. I will keep making the case across the United Kingdom for LGBT rights.”
“The whole point of devolution is, I know it’s frustrating, those decisions are made by devolved government.”
She responded: “Is there not a place in central government for putting pressure? You’ve said you’re going to be a warrior for LGBT rights.
“You’ve actually nominated an LGBT international envoy as part of this manifesto… so why can’t you make a statement about what’s happening at home?
“What’s the point of an international envoy if you can’t deal with what’s going on in your own country?”
The same audience member previously challenged David Cameron to rule out a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party, which he neglected to do – though he said he “totally disagreed” with the party’s stance on LGBT rights.
Speaking to PinkNews, Ms Hassan said: “I wasn’t satisfied with either answer.
“Ed Miliband tried to take up the interview time by turning the question around on me, then he started talking about how I had to respect the principle of devolution.
“It was me who brought up devolution – he was making claims about bringing in LGBT sex education for ALL state schools.
“This is such a naive promise to make, if he intended to include Northern Ireland in that promise – because the issue is DEVOLVED. He can’t make that promise.
“When I gave him the opportunity to acknowledge this, and say he will apply pressure for Northern Ireland to follow suit, he wouldn’t.
“He said I made a compelling argument… the interesting thing about compelling arguments is that they actually compel you to do something. We’ll see if he actually does.
“I haven’t seen or heard any statements yet, and I’d say we’ll be waiting a while… not much of a warrior for LGBT rights if you ask me.”