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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 7, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 14
Irish nationalists demand marriage equality for Northern Ireland
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Irish nationalists demand marriage equality for Northern Ireland

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Sinn Féin, the Irish nationalist party, has included demands for marriage equality as part of a potential power-sharing deal in Northern Ireland.

The 1998 Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of civil war in Northern Ireland set up a broad coalition of nationalist and unionist parties - the nationalists favoring reunification of Ireland and the unionists wanting the North to remain part of the United Kingdom.

The power sharing agreement required both sides to participate in the government and to negotiate a common legislative agenda, but allowed each to effectively veto any proposal by filing a so-called petition of concern stating that it felt its rights were being violated.

The anti-Gay DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) used petitions of concern repeatedly to block marriage equality bills from passing Northern Irelands parliament, with the result that Northern Ireland is now the only part of the United Kingdom that does not allow same-sex marriage.

Sinn Féin, on the other hand, has explicitly endorsed marriage equality since 2013. The Irish Republic, which Sinn Féin wishes the North to join, endorsed same-sex marriages in a referendum in 2015.

Sinn Féin is in good shape to push its demands. In elections held earlier this month, DUP lost seats in parliament after its previous government collapsed in a corruption scandal. While the DUP remains the largest party, and will head up any future government, it will rule with a reduced majority.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, second-largest party Sinn Féin is required to form a new power-sharing government with the DUP - but the two parties failed to reach a deal by the deadline on March 26.

The talks collapsed after Sinn Féin set out a number of demands, including progress on equal marriage. The nationalist party charges that the DUP refused to budge on the issue.

The DUPs approach thus far has been to engage in a minimalist way on all of the key issues, including legacy issues - an Irish-language act, a bill of rights and marriage equality, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said.

They have been reinforced in this by the British governments stance. This is unacceptable and a matter of grave concern.

Speaking at a March 27 press conference today after the collapse of talks, Sinn Féin member of parliament Michelle ONeill said that the DUP maintained their position in relation to blocking equality and delivering equality for citizens. That is a problem.

We, over the course of today, have a range of meetings with the other parties. We continue to engage. We do need to make the institutions work, but they can only work on the basis of equality, respect and integrity at their course.

The DUP, in response, reaffirmed that it will continue to block progress toward marriage equality in the North.





The United Kingdoms Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, said the impasse was extremely disappointing.

We now have a short window of opportunity to resolve outstanding issues and for an Executive to be formed, he added.

Everyone owes it to the people of Northern Ireland to grasp that and provide the political leadership and the stability they want.

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