Current Affairs

Amnesty: DUP ‘must stop blocking’ equal marriage in Northern Ireland

Nick Duffy May 23, 2016
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More than two-thirds of people in Northern Ireland now support equal marriage – but the DUP continues to block all progress on the issue

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 Democratic Unionist Party 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 via the peace process to encourage cross-community power-sharing, to ‘veto’ marriage legislation despite clear majority support.

The DUP had promised to “stand by its commitment to family values and marriage” prior to this month’s Stormont elections – and won enough MLAs to continue to veto the laws.

However, the public may be losing patience on the issue – with polls finding that support for equality has reached record heights, even among DUP voters.

68 percent of people now support equal marriage, while the Love Equality campaign estimates that at least 58 of the newly-elected members of the Northern Ireland Assembly do as well.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty, who organises the Love Equality campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, said the DUP could no longer feasibly stand in the way of progress.

He told U105.8 FM: “No matter which way you put the data, ever group is now in favour of marriage equality.

“We do have our largest political party, the DUP, saying no – and to an extend that’s absolutely fine and fair. But the problem comes when they use the petition of concern to block the will of the people and the will of the assembly.

“We know from our own discussions that we have at least 58 MLAs of the 100 publicly in favour of changing the law, and there’s a few who are privately in favour but haven’t been able to vote yes to date.

We have that majority among the people, we now have a clear majority among the assembly as well. It should only be a matter of time, but it boils down to the DUP refraining “from using that veto power.

“We call upon them to no longer stand in the way of the march of equality in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Corrigan added: “If you actually looked at DUP voters, they were split 50/50 – half of the DUP voters polled said they oppose marriage equality, but half were in favour. Even among DUP voters, there is not really a majority against equality. In every other party there’s a clear majority for.

“We would ask the DUP to reflect on their position and when this next comes to the assembly… vote against it if you must, but allow a free vote and don’t use the petition of concern.

“Respect the will of the assembly, reflecting the will of the people.”

He added: “People are impatient for change. They have just returned a majority of pro-equal marriage politicians to the Assembly and now expect them to deliver without further delay or the misuse of petitions of concern to veto the will of the people.”

Listen to the segment below:

More: alliance party, Arlene Foster, DUP, Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland, SDLP, Sinn Fein, ulster unionists

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