Sinn Fein: No power-sharing deal without equal marriage in Northern Ireland

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)

Sinn Fein has issued the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) with an ultimatum, saying that it will not agree to any new power-sharing deal that doesn’t include marriage equality for Northern Ireland.

Michelle O’Neill, the party’s vice president, said that it was wrong for any politician to continue to deny the LGBT+ community in Northern Ireland its rights.

“In 2019, for anybody to seriously say any legislator can sit and actively deny or discriminate against one section of society is just not acceptable,” she said at a Belfast Pride Festival debate on Monday (July 29), according to the Belfast Telegraph.

“It’s our determination to deliver marriage equality, we must deliver marriage equality.”

O’Neill said that while she would rather marriage equality be introduced through the devolved parliament, Stormont has so far failed its LGBT+ constituents.

Any deal will have to include marriage equality, that’s the bottom line.

“It doesn’t sit comfortably with me as an Irish republican to ask the British government to legislate but if rights are going to continually be denied and the assembly can’t deliver, then that is the context in which Westminster can deliver the legislation,” she said.

“Any deal that’s reached in terms of the restoration of the assembly will have to include marriage equality, that’s the bottom line.”

MPs vote for equal marriage in Northern Ireland

Same-sex marriage is tentatively set to be introduced in Northern Ireland by January 2020 after British MPs voted 383-73 in favour of an amendment tabled by Labour MP Conor McGinn.

The amendment will only come into force in power-sharing talks fail to deliver a restored executive by October 21, and any future assembly would be able to amend or overturn the law.

Power sharing talks have been ongoing intermittently since the executive was suspended in January 2017, with the most recent round beginning in early June.

Equal marriage is said to be the major sticking point in the process, with the DUP vehemently opposed.

Social Democratic and Labour Party MLA Colum Eastwood has said that the “number one issue” preventing a deal is the petition of concern—the veto mechanism which the DUP used to overturn a majority vote for equal marriage in November 2015.