UK government facilitating ‘disgraceful denial’ of equal marriage in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin says

Sinn Féin has hit out at the UK government for a “disgraceful” denial of equal marriage rights in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is currently the only part of the UK without marriage equality, with a long-running stalemate on the issue owing to opposition from the Democratic Unionist Party and the collapse of regional power-sharing.

LGBT campaigners in the region say it is up to Prime Minister Theresa May to deliver equal rights via the UK Parliament in the absence of the devolved government, which broke down more than a year ago and shows little signs of reforming.

Sinn Féin this week renewed attacks on the DUP and the UK Government, accusing them of standing in the way of a settlement on the issue.

Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O’Neill (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

Michelle O’Neill, the Leader of Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, said: “Confidence in the political institutions in the north was at an all-time low as a result of the the DUP blockading people’s rights and the public were outraged at the series of financial scandals, including the RHI fiasco associated with the DUP amid allegations of misconduct and corruption.
“In his letter of resignation Martin McGuinness cited these DUP financial scandals and its ‘shameful disrespect’ towards whole sections of our community, including women, the LGBT community, ethnic minorities and Irish language speakers.”

She added: “We had an agreement in February which paved the way for the re-establishment of the Executive, but the DUP reneged on this agreement and collapsed the political talks.

“The Tory government’s response, with the full support of the DUP, has been to adopt a do-nothing approach to restoring power sharing.

“The British government continues to facilitate the DUP’s disgraceful denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands, language rights, marriage rights, women’s rights and the right to a coroner’s inquest.

“So while the Tories continue to place their selfish party political interests over public services and equality for all citizens, the price of their toxic pact with the DUP is no Assembly and no Executive.

“But the issues of rights and integrity which need to be resolved are not going away. All roads lead back to the negotiating table.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 15: Michelle O'Neill, leader of Sinn Féin speaks to the media outside 10 Downing Street on June 15, 2017 in London, England. Prime Minister Theresa May held a series of meetings with the main Northern Ireland political parties today to allay mounting concerns over a government deal with the DUP in the wake of the UK general election. (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Michelle O’Neill (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty)

She added that the UK government should bring a plan for equality to an upcoming British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, a form of joint administration of Northern Ireland by the Irish and UK governments while devolution in Northern Ireland is suspended.

O’Neill said: “Fifty years after the civil rights campaign, rights will not be denied.

“The British Irish Intergovernmental Conference will meet again in the Autumn, the two governments need to lay out a clear plan for a successful outcome and the full implementation of outstanding agreements and the safeguarding of rights for citizens in the north.”

 Speaking at a PinkNews event in Stormont in July, O’Neill said that her party would only participate in a future power-sharing government that respects LGBT rights.