Robin Swann says Ulster Unionist Party ‘won’t stand for intolerance’ at PinkNews summer reception in Belfast
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Robin Swann said that his party won’t stand for intolerance and stands with the LGBT+ at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast, supported by Citi.
Swann, speaking at the Parliament of Northern Ireland in the country’s capital on Thursday (June 28), told the LGBT+ community, “Who I am doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t embrace who you are.”
He said the UUP “won’t stand for intolerance,” adding: “I recognise the relationship of the LGBT community and political unionism has not been an easy one … I want our party to be a comfortable [home] for LGBT representatives.”
“I’m not here to be an expert on the LGBT+ community, but i’m prepared to learn … our party should be for everyone,” added Swann.
A cross-party group of Northern Irish politicians gathered at the third of many regional receptions held by PinkNews to debate LGBT+ topics from education to same-sex marriage.
Swann took over from Mike Nesbitt as the UUP leader in May 2017.
After his election, the leader said he is “not minded” to sign a petition of concern preventing the introduction of same-sex marriage after the decision was narrowly voted in by 53 to 52 votes at Stormont.
However, he told the BBC he is still not in favour of same-sex marriage.
The legislation to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland broke down after it received vehement opposition from the DUP.
The party challenged the vote using a measure known as a petition of concern.
This meant that in order for the motion to pass, it requires the proposal to achieve a cross-community majority.
Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK that continues to ban same-sex marriage, due to opposition from the ultra-conservative DUP.
A cross-party, cross-house bill to introduce same-sex marriage has been put forward by Labour MP Conor McGinn in the House of Commons and Conservative peer Lord Hayward in the House of Lords.
“Let me be clear. I would like to see a fully functioning Northern Ireland Assembly up and running and making the decision to allow equal marriage,” the MP wrote in an article for PinkNews.
“But in its absence, which has been for over a year now, I believe LGBT couples in Northern Ireland should not have to wait any longer for this injustice to end.
“The UK Government should introduce legislation to right this fundamental wrong. Sadly it has not given that commitment, and so long as it relies on the support of the DUP to remain in office, it probably won’t act of its own volition.”
The PinkNews summer reception in Belfast was supported by Citi.