Mayor of North Down: It will take ‘more work’ to achieve equal marriage in Northern Ireland

PinkNews logo surrounded by illustrated images including a rainbow, unicorn, PN sign and pride flag.

The Mayor of North Down says Northern Ireland will eventually secure marriage equality “but it’s just going to take a bit more work in terms of society”.

In an interview to Gay Times (GT), Mayor Andrew Muir shared his own experiences as a gay man living in the country.

“Since coming out in 1996, I have experienced harassment and violence. In recent years I haven’t experienced so much of that, though, which I think that shows progress. Things have been changing for the better.”

The Alliance Party councillor was previously a victim of violent homophobic abuse at a Pride event in Londonderry.

“I was walking down with some of the promotional material for the event, and then an individual started hurling homophobic abuse and then hurling rocks at me,” he said.

Mr Muir continued: “The attack felt insulting, it felt hurtful. but it also motivated me. I’ve been involved in politics since an early age, since secondary school, and I’ve been involved in community activism as well and I feel that it motivated me to campaign for equality and pick up a voice for people. But still, in 2014, there are no openly gay MLAs or MPs in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “My election as mayor shows that the country has changed. The local elections have a wide range of openly gay and Catholic candidates from a number of different political parties and that’s something I haven’t seen before and I’m glad to see that level of progress”.

The Democratic Unionist Party has continuously voted against attempts to legalise same-sex marriage in the Northern Ireland Assemblymost recently in April.

The DUP has the most MLAs of any party in the Assembly.

Amnesty International has warned the Assembly that it will not be able to block same-sex marriage indefinitely, legality is likely to be settled in the courts, if not by politicians.

Mr Muir agrees and said: “We look to England, Scotland and Wales and see the progress they’ve achieved. We can achieve that here, but it’s just going to take a bit more work in terms of society. You have to remember we were very recently a nation of conflict, and a lot of difficulties come with that.”