Same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland ‘best memorial’ to Lyra McKee
Same-sex marriage should be introduced in Northern Ireland in tribute to Lyra McKee, politicians and friends of the murdered journalist have said.
McKee, a promising young lesbian journalist, was shot dead while observing riots in Derry on April 18.
It was revealed during her funeral on Wednesday (April 24) that she was planning to propose to her partner Sara Canning. Since then, the introduction of same-sex marriage has been floated as a potential part of her legacy.
Journalist Susan McKay, a friend of McKee, has called on the Catholic Church to lead the way in addressing the issue.
“We all saw the dignity of Lyra’s fiancé, Sara Canning, in the aftermath of her beloved’s murder,” she told RTE Radio 1’s Marian Finucane on Sunday (April 28).
“That is something that I think Father Magill [the priest who led McKee’s funeral] and his church need to address. They are denying hope to people of Lyra’s generation.
“They are denying hope to people of Lyra’s generation.”
— Susan McKay, friend of Lyra McKee
“If there’s going to be room for change in the politicians who are stuck in their trenches, then there has to be room for change within the churches—and in particular, the Catholic Church.”
Same-sex marriage not legal in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is currently the only place in the UK where same-sex marriages are not recognised, though civil partnerships are legal.
Shaun Woodward, the former Northern Ireland secretary, has said that introducing equal marriage would be “one of the best memorials we could give to that wonderful woman.”
He told LBC Radio on Saturday (April 27): “What better thing could the politicians now do, actually give the gay men and women in Northern Ireland what everybody else in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland has, which is the right to same-sex marriage.”
Stormont has voted on legislation which would give marriage equality five times since 2012.
It passed by a slim majority on the most recent attempt in November 2015 but was blocked by the DUP using a petition of concern, a mechanism designed to ensure all legislation has the support of both republicans and nationalists.
Michael Martin, leader of the republican party Fianna Fail, has accused the DUP of abusing this power.
“The use of the petition of concern to block marriage equality or other measures designed to respect rights not undermine them is an unquestionable abuse,” he said on Sunday (April 28), according to the Belfast Telegraph.
DUP leader Arlene Foster has already stated that despite “sympathising” with Canning, she remains against equal marriage.
Northern Ireland power-sharing broke down in 2017
The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended since January 2017, when power-sharing broke down over a bungled renewable energy scheme.
McKee’s death has acted as a catalyst for leaders to begin fresh talks aimed at restoring devolution, with British Prime Minister and Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar issuing a joint statement days after attending the journalist’s funeral.
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“In coming together with other political leaders in St Anne’s Cathedral to pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will and determination of all of the people of these islands to reject violence and to support peace and a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland,” the statement, released on Friday (April 26), read.
“To pay tribute to Lyra McKee, we gave expression to the clear will to reject violence in Northern Ireland.”
— Theresa May and Leo Varadkar
“The aim of these talks is quickly to re-establish to full operation the democratic institutions of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement—the NI executive, assembly and North-South Ministerial Council—so that they can effectively serve all of the people for the future.”
Talks will begin on May 7.
While the marriage bill was not to blame for Stormont’s failure, it has been cited as contributing to the ongoing impasse.
Martin suggested that a referendum on equal marriage could “break the logjam.”
Speaking in Dublin, he said: “An immediate commitment to a referendum might be a way to deal with the issue.”