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Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill demands marriage equality at PinkNews Belfast event

Reiss Smith June 20, 2019
Michelle O'Neill speaking at a podium

Michelle O'Neill at the PinkNews Belfast Summer Reception. (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PinkNews)

Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, said that there is “no room for second class citizenship” while demanding marriage equality at the PinkNews Belfast Summer Reception on Thursday (June 20).

O’Neill called on politicians from across the divide to work together to bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK in terms of same-sex marriage.

Addressing her fellow members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) at the PinkNews reception, supported by Citi, Ulster Bank and charity partner The Rainbow Project, she said: “It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re elected to represent all people in society.

“The LGBT+ community is a valuable and integral part of our society and I’m determined to ensure that people are heard.

Michelle O'Neill speaks to a crowd
Michelle O’Neill demanded marriage equality. (Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PinkNews)

“I’m determined to ensure that you can enjoy the same rights, the same benefits that everybody else does. That’s not a privilege, that’s just your right.

“There’s absolutely no room for second class citizenship in our society.”

‘Political blockade’ to blame for equal marriage failure

Speaking in Stormont’s Great Hall, O’Neill acknowledged that there is a “political blockade” preventing LGBT+ equality in Northern Ireland.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has previously used a petition of concern to overturn a vote in favour of same-sex marriage. The issue is reportedly a large part of the impasse which has left Northern Ireland without a functioning government for more than two years.

“This blockade is not sustainable,” O’Neill said.

“It cannot continue and it will not continue. Sinn Féin will play no part in state sponsored discrimination.

“Sinn Féin will play no part in state sponsored discrimination.”

—Michelle O’Neill

“As legislators we have a moral duty to put citizens’ rights first, above our own personal beliefs and to protect everybody equally.”

As well as equal marriage, O’Neill urged politicians to work together on issues such as “gender recognition reform, access to safe and appropriate healthcare and reformed relationship and sex education,” and to clamp down on discrimination and violence against the LGBT+ community.

Michelle O’Neill pays tribute to Lyra McKee

O’Neill joined other speakers including Alliance Party MLA Paula Bradshaw in paying tribute to Lyra McKee, the gay journalist who was killed while observing riots in Derry on April 18.

“She was a big champion for LGBT+ rights who certainly made her mark in society,” she said.

Closing her speech, O’Neill repeated her call for solidarity.

 

“We must all strive together to make change in the weeks ahead,” she said.

“We must recognise that a right denied to one is a right denied to all.”

Following O’Neills speech, Alliance Party MLA John Blair announced the nominees for Community Group of the Year award at the PinkNews Awards 2019.

Intercom Trust, Schools Out UK, LGBT Arabic, LGBT Foundation and Metro Charity are all up for the award, which seeks to honour a charitable or non-profit organisation for their work to better the lives of LGBT+ people in their community.

The winner will be announced at the seventh annual PinkNews Awards in London on October 16.

More: Northern Ireland

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