DUP remains largest in Northern Ireland, kills hope of equal marriage
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has remained the largest in Northern Ireland, dashing hopes of equal marriage.
Arlene Foster remains the First Minister as the DUP won 38 seats compared to Sinn Fein’s 28, the Ulster Unionists 16, SDLP’s 12 and the Alliance Party’s eight.
The DUP maintained the same number of seats as before the election, and Sinn Fein has dropped one.
Foster said: “I’m absolutely delighted with the mandate that my party has been given to drive forward Northern Ireland into the future.”
“Of course, people have spoken and they have spoken very clearly.”
The party has five times used peace process vetoes to block the passage of equal marriage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in England, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – but continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland.
The Northern Irish Assembly backed equal marriage by a vote of 53 to 51 last year – but the DUP used peace process powers to override the democratic process and block equality for a fifth time.
The party has been accused of “abusing” petitions of concern, which were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support, to ‘veto’ marriage legislation despite clear majority support.
Some had hoped that, when Foster took over as DUP leader, the party might soften its stance on equal marriage.
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But last month, as the party’s manifesto was published, it was clarified that Foster would not seek to change the DUP’s stance in favour of equality.
A 15-year-old with same-sex parents recently released a plea to his DUP representative – asking him to explain why he voted to block equal marriage.
Teenager Darragh Tibbs said: “You voted no in the Marriage Equality vote of last year: I want to know why. I am the child of a same-sex relationship and I can see absolutely no reason why my brother and I should be denied a secure family set-up.
“What gives you the right to take from my brother and me the right for legal protection for our family?”
His MLA Gordon Dunne did not respond.