Thousands march for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Thousands of people took to the streets of Belfast today, calling on UK Prime Minister Theresa May to legislate for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

A simultaneous march pushing for gay marriage in the country took place in Londonderry.

The march in central Belfast was led by the city’s Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister. It culminated in a mass-rally in front of City Hall, hosted by The Fall actor Bronagh Waugh.

According to events organisers Love Equality, the organisation leading the campaign for gay marriage in the country, some 20,000 people attended the march in Northern Ireland’s capital.


Speakers at the rally included Conor McGinn MP, a Labour MP, whose private members’ bill to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland was stymied last month when a Conservative MP objected to its second reading in Parliament.

Ailbhe Smyth, a lesbian activist and founder of the Marriage Equality campaign, also spoke at the march.

Polling shows that an overwhelming majority in Northern Ireland support equal marriage, but progress on the issue has been stalled for many years due to political instability and opposition from the hardline Democratic Unionist Party.

Campaigners fear that following the collapse of power-sharing in the region, it could be many years before the impasse is solved unless UK Prime Minister Theresa May intervenes.

Prime Minister Theresa May (right) meets DUP leader Arlene Foster (Charles McQuillan – WPA Pool /Getty)

May has insisted the issue must wait for the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland – but campaigners say she is sacrificing LGBT rights to appease the DUP, who prop up her majority in Westminster.

Patrick Corrigan of the Love Equality campaign, said: “It’s nonsensical that the government is denying the people of Northern Ireland the same rights as everyone else in the UK. Human rights should not rely on postcodes.

Ailbhe Smyth speaking at today’s rally. (Brendan Harkin/Love Equality)

“There can be no second-class citizens in the UK. It is now up to Theresa May and the UK Government to deliver on the promise of equality.”

Other speakers at today’s rally included Anthony Flynn and Cory Quinn, a same-sex couple currently denied the right to marry in Northern Ireland; drag queen Lady Portia; and Koulla Yiasouma, Northern Ireland commissioner for children and young People.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Jack Taylor/Getty)

The rally comes at a significant time, as May is also facing pressure to alter the region’s law on abortion.

Following the Republic of Ireland’s landslide vote to repeal its blanket ban on abortions, campaigners have urged Northern Ireland to follow suit.

It was recently reported that a significant number of Tory MPs are thought to privately support plans to bring abortion laws in Northern Ireland closer in line with those in the rest of UK and in the Republic of Ireland.

Today’s rally for same-sex marriage in Belfast. (glennquigley/Twitter)

The PM could face a defeat on an abortion amendment in Parliament, spelling trouble for the government’s relationship with the DUP.

LGBT campaigners are hoping for a similar push in favour of equal marriage.

Labour’s Conor McGinn previously brought a backbench bill to the UK Parliament seeking to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, which had earned the backing of Conservative former equalities ministers Nicky Morgan and Justine Greening.

However a lone Conservative MP shot down the cross-party push on May 11.