Mayor of North Down: Northern Ireland will have equal marriage within 10 years

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The Mayor of North Down, Andrew Muir, predicts Northern Ireland will legalise equal marriage within the next 10 years.

The Alliance Party gay councillor was commenting after the Scottish Parliament voted on Tuesday to legalise equal marriage.

Northern Ireland is now the only remaining UK nation where equal marriage has not been legalised.

“I think it provides us with, even more, an impetus for change,” he said. “It should be a motivator for us in Northern Ireland to build an inclusive and equal society for everyone – regardless of whether it’s lesbian and gay people, or other minorities, or women.”

In terms of a potential due date, he said: “Northern Ireland will have it within 10 years. Whether it’s through legislation or through the courts. It’s an inevitability.

“I’m confident because I’m hopeful for Northern Ireland. I like Northern Ireland, and I know the people of Northern Ireland are very much progressive and aspirational for a new and inclusive future.”

He added: “This could be done within the next year if the Assembly stood up to the mark and said: ‘We value all people within our society equally’.”

When it was pointed out that there has not been sufficient political appetite for it so far, the Belfast Newsletter reports he replied:  “No. There hasn’t. But change happens.

“Who would have thought we’d have had the Good Friday Agreement? Who’d have thought we’d have had devolution? The DUP in government with Sinn Fein? Change happens. Things move on.

“I’ve seen things in my lifetime I never thought would happen, but have happened.”

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has twice used a petition of concern to block votes on equal marriage – much to the annoyance of Sinn Fein, the Greens and the Alliance Party, who all support the reform for Northern Ireland.

Under Stormont rules, any party can trigger a petition of concern on a motion that then can only pass if the majority of nationalists and unionists back it together.

A joint same-sex marriage proposal by Sinn Fein and the Green Party was defeated in October 2012, along nationalist and unionist lines.

The DUP again blocked progress on equal marriage through another petition of concern in April 2013.