PinkNews Awards 2018: Northern Ireland bill sponsors Conor McGinn and Lord Hayward win Politician of the Year

Labour MP Conor McGinn and Conservative peer Lord Hayward have been named joint winners of the Politician of the Year prize at the 2018 PinkNews Awards.

The two lawmakers were honoured for their work across the political divide to extend equal marriage to Northern Ireland.

Read more: The complete list of winners of the PinkNews Awards 2018

Northern Ireland-born Labour MP Conor McGinn submitted a bill in the House of Commons to bring equal marriage to the region, while Lord Hayward submitted counterpart legislation in the Lords.

Lord Hayward, John Bercow and Conor McGinn (Paul Grace)

LGBT+ campaigners have praised the pair’s efforts to secure equality via Westminster, given the absence of a devolved government. Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive collapsed in January 2017 and is yet to be restored due to divisions between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin.

Commons Speaker John Bercow presented the award, praising the two Parliamentarians for “working night and day to try to deliver the marriage equality that people in England, Scotland and Wales take for granted, in Northern Ireland, by bicameral cooperation and cooperation across the party divide.”

Accepting the award, McGinn said: “It’s overwhelming to receive this award on behalf of all those LGBT couples in Northern Ireland who still aren’t treated equally. I hope this sends a very strong message to government here that the issue isn’t going away.

“This is not about people getting married or even being gay, this is about people being equal. We are absolutely determined to do it, however it is possible.

“Thank you to all the organisations working to ensure we get marriage equality in Belfast as we do in London and Dublin.

Lord Hayward added: “Conor and I will not rest. To the ministers in this room and politicians from other parties, we want equality in Northern Ireland and we deserve equality in Northern Ireland.”

Conor McGinn and Lord Hayward (Paul Grace)

The other nominees in the category were Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt, Lib Dem MP Layla Moran, the SNP’s Christina McKelvie, Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O’Neill and Alliance Party of Northern Ireland Naomi Long.

McGinn, the MP for St Helens North, has said he hopes that his bill will keep up pressure on the UK government to act on the issue, adding that in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly, Westminster has a “moral and political duty to act and bring in legislation to end this discrimination once and for all.”

The two lawmakers introduced their two private members’ bills on the issue in March 2018.

The bills have kept the issue on the political agenda and also earned backing from across much of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland.

McGinn previously wrote for PinkNews: “Let me be clear. I would like to see a fully functioning Northern Ireland Assembly up and running and making the decision to allow equal marriage.

“But in its absence, which has been for over a year now, I believe LGBT couples in Northern Ireland should not have to wait any longer for this injustice to end.”

Lord Hayward founded the country’s first gay rugby club, the Kings Cross Steelers, and has been a prominent supporter of LGBT+ rights in the House of Lords.

Lord Hayward

The sixth annual PinkNews Awards ceremony was hosted at Church House in Westminster.

Speakers at the event included Home Secretary Sajid Javid, former Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The PinkNews Awards is supported by Lloyds Banking Group.