Unionists could make pact to keep blocking equal marriage in Northern Ireland

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Just days after Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party lost their veto power over same-sex marriage, another MLA has vowed to help them block it.

Assembly elections were held last week in Northern Ireland after the collapse of the previous government, with the anti-gay marriage DUP losing ground to Sinn Féin.

The DUP, which lost nearly all of its hefty majority, had previously used peace process powers known as ‘petitions of concern’ to block same-sex marriage.

Hopes of progress were raised over the weekend when the DUP won just 28 seats – two short of the 30 needed to pass a petition of concern by themselves.

However, it’s far from plain sailing, and unionists from two other parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and Traditional Unionist Voice, have vowed to prop up the DUP on the issue.

Though the currently-leaderless UUP includes some members who support equality, East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs told Sunday Life he would join a veto effort.

He said: “I am against gay marriage and that is still the case.

“Nobody is sure what rules may apply for a petition of concern or if there will even be an Assembly, nobody knows. Where do we go from here?

“I wouldn’t be honouring the people who voted for me if I voted any differently because I have spoken openly in the past about my views on the matter.”

TUV MLA Jim Allister also previously vowed to aid any bid to block equal marriage, saying: “TUV is a party committed to traditional family values and will continue to resist attempts by the homosexual lobby to introduce the oxymoron which is same sex marriage to Northern Ireland.”

With the support of Beggs and Allister, the DUP would have the 30 signatures needed to veto equal marriage.

The blow comes despite a strong majority in the new Assembly for equal marriage.

Before any move on the issue, however, an Executive must be formed – with the DUP and Sinn Féin having just weeks to agree a power-sharing deal.

Sinn Féin have refused to work with DUP leader Arlene Foster over a corruption scandal, while Ms Foster has steadfastly refused to resign.

If no deal is reached, the Assembly will be dissolved again and power reverted to Westminster.