SDLP leader Colum Eastwood calls for petition of concern reform at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast

Social Democratic and Labour Party leader Colum Eastwood called for reforms to Northern Ireland’s petition of concern rules at the PinkNews summer reception in Belfast, supported by Citi, on Thursday.

Eastwood was referring to the Democratic Unionist Party using the petition of concern vote to block legislation on same-sex marriage in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“We are not all equal,” said Eastwood. “We can find a way where people can maintain their strong religious beliefs but move out of the way on this issue … reform the petition of consent.

“I would never ask anyone to compromise their position on the definition of marriage. but nobody has right to use a mechanism created to protect rights [in this way].”

Eastwood added that the SDLP “won’t stand over the fact that 50 percent of children who are LGBT don’t feel safe in school,” saying that the work to be done on equality in Northern Ireland extends beyond same-sex marriage.

This is the third of many regional receptions held by PinkNews to bring politicians and campaigners together to discuss achievements and shortcomings of Northern Ireland in terms of  LGBTQI+ rights. 

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood (OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

Eastwood, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party since 2015, has been open about his support for same-sex marriage and told The Irish News in April about the discrimination his gay younger brother faces in Northern Ireland, which continues to be the only part of the UK with a same-sex marriage ban due to DUP opposition.

“It’s a dangerous thing for society to say you don’t count like the rest of us,” said Eastwood. 


Colum Eastwood (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty)

In light of the PinkNews reception and DUP leader Arlene Foster’s attendance, Eastwood told BBC NI’s The View programme last week that her party must change its view on same-sex marriage.

“They can turn up to whatever event they want, but until they get out of the way of marriage equality then people will not take them seriously,” he said. 

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