Liam Neeson speaks out for equal marriage in Northern Ireland
Liam Neeson is among a number of stars to speak out for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland is the last part of the UK that bans same-sex couples from marrying, as the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party has repeatedly blocked measures on the issue in the Northern Ireland Assembly.
There is majority support on the issue in Stormont and among the public, but the DUP employs peace process veto powers to block all progress.
Oscar-winning actor Liam Neeson, who was born in Northern Ireland, added his voice to the issue today.
Speaking out, he said: “We’ve had enough of a history in our society in Northern Ireland of discrimination, mistrust and hatred. Yet, we’re also an open hearted, welcoming and terrific people.
“Let us show that to the world by treating gay, lesbian and transgender peoples as our brothers and sisters and allowing them to marry, if they so wish.
“By joining the rest of Ireland and other western countries in celebrating equality we can also attract more investment to our province.”
Referencing peace in Northern Ireland the actor, born in Ballymena, County Antrim, said: “We have shown the world how we can affect a peace accord when many thought it impossible.
“We must act on this and welcome all members of society through civil marriages, while still keeping our Christian values. Love, is love, is love.”
Neeson was speaking ahead of an Amnesty International rally for equality in Belfast, scheduled for this Saturday (July 1).
He was joined by a string of other famous voices.
Gary Lightbody, lead singer of Snow Patrol, said: “Two years ago, I marched with 20,000 fellow Northern Ireland citizens for marriage equality. It was a beautiful day of hope, joy and solidarity and I was so proud to be from Norn Iron.
“Two years on and somehow – defying reason given it’s the will of the people – we still do not have marriage equality in Northern Ireland.
“We’re in the States making our new album, so we can’t be there in person to march again for marriage equality, for togetherness, for reason and for love! Everyone in Snow Patrol will be there in spirit.
“I hope the day is as special (even more special) than 2 years ago and I hope those that should listen to the will of the people do listen. Surely, they must. Surely. One love!”
Gay TV host Graham Norton said: “The day that Irish people voted for equal marriage rights for their fellow citizens was such a proud gay day! It moved me to tears because it was something I never dared hope would happen.
“My own mother was from Northern Ireland, so of course I have a huge affection for the place and its people. I know it is hugely frustrating for gay people there that it is the last part of these islands still without marriage equality. Especially when there is such overwhelming support for it among the public.”
Out comic Stephen Fry added: “I send my love to the people of Northern Ireland. Especially all those couples striving and marching for the right to marry and have their love celebrated.
“Why should loving couples in Northern Ireland be denied this chance of happiness, of equality, enjoyed by people in every other part of these wonderful islands? It doesn’t make sense.
“Simply put, I want the same joy that I have found to be available to people in Northern Ireland.”
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland programme director for Amnesty International, one of the organisers of this Saturday’s Love Equality march, said: “We really welcome everyone’s support for the campaign. Frankly, it’s overwhelming to have such high-profile support from around the world for our equality campaign in Northern Ireland.
“So many people remember the joy felt around the world two years ago when the Republic of Ireland voted for marriage equality. We want to experience that same joy in Northern Ireland by achieving the same equality for loving couples.
“That’s why we are expecting big numbers to take to the streets of Belfast this Saturday in a celebration of love and a demand for equality.”
Sinn Fein has laid down a demand on equal marriage as negotiations continue to restore the country’s power-sharing executive, but the DUP is unlikely to shift.
DUP leader Arlene Foster reaffirmed plans to continue employing powers to block any future marriage legislation.
She recently defended her actions by insisting gay people don’t really want to get married anyway.
Ms Foster said: “This suggestion that every single person who’s a homosexual wants to change the definition of marriage is actually wrong.
“I know plenty of people in that community who don’t want to see marriage redefined and are quite content to live in partnership… it’s all become a bit of a storm in a teacup.”
The leader has also backed the introduction of a ‘conscience’ clause that would permit discrimination in the past.
Responding to a MLA’s question about whether such a law would enable homophobia, she said: “I don’t share her concerns at all.
“What does concern me is the number of small businesses who have approached me individually and many of my colleagues in relation to the concerns they have about the provision of services in the future.”