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02nd Jun 2018

Thousands march in only place in UK same-sex marriage is illegal

Kate Demolder

“There can be no second-class citizens in the UK. It is now up to Theresa May and the UK Government to deliver on the promise of equality.”

Thousands of people showed up to march in Belfast and Derry on Saturday to call for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

The biggest march – which was organised by the Love Equality NI campaign – took place across central Belfast, led by the City’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Nuala McAllister. It ended with a mass gathering in front of City Hall, hosted by Belfast actor Bronagh Waugh.

Another rally took place at Guildhall Square, Derry.

Last month, a bill to bring same-sex marriage to NI was blocked from moving to the next stage at Westminster. Labour MP Conor McGinn, the politician who brought the bill to the House of Commons, said he had expected the government to object to the bill.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK and Ireland where same-sex marriage is still illegal.

Political deadlock over the issue has dogged Stormont for years, with the DUP resisting Sinn Féin calls for a law change.

The last time same-sex marriage was brought up in parliament, a majority of MLPs voted in its favour, only to be blocked by the DUP citing a petition of concern.

A petition of concern is a mechanism used at the Northern Ireland Assembly designed to protect one community from legislation may work in favour of one community over another. Should it be cited, any motion or amendment currently being discussed then needs cross-community support to continue.

Essentially, a petition of concern henceforth vetos assembly decisions until a petition disallows it.

A valid petition requires the signatures of 30 MLAs.

JOE spoke to Sinn Féin politician and Former Belfast Lord Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile who was at the rally on Saturday.

“Today was another inclusive and colourful expression of people’s desire to see the same rights afforded to people across the rest of Ireland delivered here,” Ó Donnghaile began.

“As was said from the stage today, equality and rights threaten no one, whether that’s marriage equality, language rights, reproductive rights or access to legacy inquests – the North’s progress is being held to ransom by people who refuse to see their fellow citizens as equal.

“Today shows though that as much as people are frustrated and continue to demand change they haven’t lost heart – much like the rest of Ireland we will see the change come about because people insist upon it.”