Fresh push for equal marriage in Northern Ireland aims to break stalemate

Sinn Fein has signalled a fresh push to secure equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is set to be the last place in the British Isles without equal marriage, as Scotland, England and Wales, the Republic of Ireland, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey have all passed marriage legislation.

All progress continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland however, as the ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party has employed peace process powers to veto marriage bills despite a Parliamentary majority in favour.

The DUP ran on a platform of ‘defending marriage’ in Assembly elections earlier this year and remains the largest party, so a resolution to the stalemate is not expected to be forthcoming.

However, Sinn Fein is this week attempting to resolve the impasse by seeking DUP support for a consultation on the issue, aiming towards an equal marriage bill that all parties can support.

Against all the odds, the Belfast News Letter reports Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir is hoping to secure DUP agreement to launch a consultation.

He said: “I am in favour of marriage equality – that is why in this mandate I am determined to make what progress I can to put marriage equality on the statute book.

“I would like to proceed by way of an Executive Bill and I will at the earliest opportunity seek Executive agreement to consult on the issue.”

He added that any legislation would include protection for religious bodies who object to same-sex marriage.

The DUP has rebuffed all previous attempts to resolve the stalemate on the issue, even rejecting plans to take the issue to a referendum as in the Republic.

However the party has faced criticism for blocking equal marriage via Petitions of Concern, a power designed to ensure cross-community power sharing, despite a clear majority of support across demographics.