Northern Irish DUP accused of ‘abusing’ peace process to block same-sex marriage

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Union Party has been accused of “abusing” powers granted via the peace process in order to block same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriage is law in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland – but in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionist Party has blocked it repeatedly.

Yesterday a majority of the Northern Irish Assembly voted in favour of equal marriage – only to be blocked by the DUP under powers handed to it via the peace process.

Despite MLAs passing a marriage proposals with 53 in favour and 51 against, the DUP used a ‘petition of concern’ to strike proposals down for a fifth time.

Petitions of concern were introduced to encourage power-sharing and cross-community support between Unionists and Nationalists, and allow a group of 30 MLAs to ‘veto’ legislation if it is deemed to harm one community.

However, as the DUP have 38 MLAs, they can effectively unilaterally stop any legislation.

Director of The Rainbow Project, John O’Doherty said: “It is true that the DUP have abused the petition of concern to block this vote and are now ignoring the will of the Assembly and the people of Northern Ireland but we will not allow them to dampen our joy… our campaign continues and it will not end until marriage equality is a reality for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland Programme Director, said: “The abuse of the Petition of Concern, to hold back rather than uphold the rights of a minority group, means that Stormont has once again failed to keep pace with equality legislation elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.

“The battle for equality in Northern Ireland will now move to the Courts, where same-sex couples have been forced to go to secure their rights as equal citizens in this country.”

Political blog Slugger O’Toole yesterday raised serious questions about the DUP’s use of petitions of concern – noting that the physical petitions appear to be pre-printed, with names and signatures of some MLAs tippexed out.
Northern Irish DUP accused of ‘abusing’ peace process to block same-sex marriage
The blog alleges that it appears to have been signed by MLA Jimmy Spratt, who retired in September due to ill health, with his name tippexed out and replaced with his replacement Emma Pengelly’s.

PinkNews asked the DUP to comment on the allegations – but received no reply.