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SDLP candidate: I don't agree with my party's policy

By Rebecca Black

Published 29/04/2015

Missed vote: Alban Maginness
Missed vote: Alban Maginness

An SDLP Westminster candidate has said that his conscience does not allow him to agree with the position of his party in favour of same-sex marriage.

A Sinn Fein proposal on the controversial issue was defeated in the Assembly by 49 votes to 47 on Monday following a heated debate.

The SDLP is supportive of gay marriage, but five members did not turn up for the Stormont vote earlier this week.

North Belfast candidate Alban Maginness told the Belfast Telegraph that he had been unable to attend the vote for personal reasons, but admitted he would have abstained had he been there.

An SDLP spokesman said the whip was applied so that no member was permitted to vote against the party's policy, which is in favour of marriage equality.

But Mr Maginness denied he would have been disciplined for abstaining on the vote.

"I would have abstained," he said. "It was not whipped."

When asked if he had ever had disagreements with the SDLP over his view on same-sex marriage, he responded: "No, I have not."

"The party's position is in favour, but the party permits according to conscience a person who is a member of the parliamentary party or the Assembly party to abstain," he said.

"There is the ability to abstain. That's the position that the SDLP arrived at consensually within the party."

He would not comment on whether he regretted the position of the SDLP in favour of same-sex marriage.

"The party has made its decision and that is the party's decision. I have my own personal view in relation to it and I have expressed it," he said.

"I disagree with it and I am given permission by the party centrally to dissent from that and to express that by way of abstention.

"I have already expressed my view (on same-sex marriage) so there is no need to repeat what I have already expressed.

"I believe, in terms of my own personal position, that it is a matter of conscience, and I disagree with the proposition."

Mr Maginness also said he would prefer to see children adopted by a mother and father, but that the law allows gay couples to adopt.

"As I understand it in Northern Ireland, anybody can adopt and that is law and I accept the law," he said.

"I think that in relation to adoption, it is preferable that a mother and father look after a child."

When asked if his views would be unique within the SDLP, Mr Maginness said: "I am myself, but I am sure that other people would share my views."

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