On Valentine’s Day, the DUP vow to deny marriage to gay couples in Northern Ireland
Happy Valentine’s Day, gay people in Northern Ireland – your rights will continue to be blocked by the DUP.
Northern Ireland remains the only part of the UK without equal marriage as the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party has employed its veto to block same-sex marriage bills.
Republican party Sinn Fein has demanded a settlement on the issue as part of any power-sharing deal with the DUP, stalling attempts to restore devolved government in the region.
Today, the DUP vowed to continue to “defend the current definition of marriage” and block progress on same-sex marriage.
Speaking to the Belfast News Letter, a DUP spokesperson said: “The DUP has a mandated policy to defend the current definition of marriage. We stand by that commitment.”
A source inside the party also told the outlet that the party would continue to employ a ‘petition of concern’, a peace process power that can be used to block legislation, to stop equal marriage from becoming law via backbench legislation.
The DUP source said: “If a private members bill was to be tabled [instead] then the DUP would work to protect the current definition of marriage and would try to utilise the petition of concern to do so.
The comments come on Valentine’s Day, and will naturally disappoint gay couples in the region who have already been waiting years for the right to marry.
Elsewhere today a group of LGBT teenagers delivered a petition calling for marriage equality in Northern Ireland to politicians in the region.
Among those who received the petition in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings were Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O’Neill of Sinn Féin, Colum Eastwood and Nichola Mallon of the SDLP, Doug Beattie and John Stewart of the Ulster Unionist Party, Naomi Long of Alliance, Steven Agnew of the Green Party and Gerry Carroll of People Before Profit.
DUP leader Arlene Foster did not reply to their letter of invitation.
The petition was presented in the form of a huge Valentine’s Day card and the teenagers brought lots heart-shaped balloons to demonstrate their support for the Love Equality campaign.
The LGBT teens only set up the petition on Thursday and say they have been overwhelmed with the response. So far, more than 14,000 people have signed the petition.
Patrick Corrigan of the Love Equality campaign said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the breadth of party political support for marriage equality legislation at the Assembly.
“But it is all the more exasperating to know that, despite a large majority of MLAs in support of a law change, they cannot make progress because of the DUP’s vow to use the Petition of Concern to frustrate the will of the Assembly.
“It is now clearer than ever that the Petition of Concern must be reformed – up front as part of any Stormont Talks deal – if the devolved institutions are to have any credibility in being able to provide a government for everyone.
“To return to government without actual reform of the Petition of Concern, as opposed to simply a promise to review the mechanism, would be a huge let-down to the young people who presented the petition today and the many others who don’t want another four years of Stormont failure. If Stormont is not up to the job, then we are asking Westminster to intervene.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster also today walked away from power-sharing talks.
She said in a statement: “For almost four weeks, we have been engaged in intensive negotiations with Sinn Fein. We have attempted to find a stable and sustainable basis for restoring devolution. Those discussions have been unsuccessful.
“Despite our best efforts, serious and significant gaps remain between ourselves and Sinn Fein.”
She added: “As far back as last summer, I outlined my party’s willingness to reach an accommodation on language and cultural issues. However, I indicated that any such accommodation must be fair, balanced and capable of commanding support on all sides of our community. At the moment, we do not have a fair and balanced package.”
She added: “In our view, there is no current prospect of these discussions leading to an Executive being formed.
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“It is now incumbent upon Her Majesty’s Government to set a budget and start making policy decisions about our schools, hospitals and infrastructure. Important decisions impacting on everyone in Northern Ireland have been sitting in limbo for too long. I had dearly hoped that we could have restored an Executive and local Ministers could have taken those decisions.
“That is not possible at this time. Northern Ireland is best governed by local Ministers who are accountable to local people.
“Restoring a sustainable and fully functioning devolved government will remain our goal but we will not accept a one-sided deal.
“Any agreement to restore the Executive must be on a sensible basis. We cannot and will not be held to ransom by those who have refused to form an Executive for over thirteen months.”