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SF politician with gay daughter to propose unionist-dominated council backs same-sex marriage

By Donna Deeney

Published 15/08/2015

Sinn Fein councillor Tony McCaul and his daughter Susan Donaghy
Sinn Fein councillor Tony McCaul and his daughter Susan Donaghy

A Sinn Fein councillor who has a gay daughter is to bring a proposal for same-sex marriage in front of the unionist-dominated, highly divided Causeway Coast and Glens Council this week.

Tony McCaul has personal as well as political reasons for bringing his motion that the council supports gay couples having equal rights to get married after his daughter Susan came out some years ago

Mr McCaul's proposal is expected to be met with fierce opposition from the predominantly unionist chamber.

A number of other thorny issues - including the commemoration of a UDR officer murdered by the Official IRA - will be debated this week at the council.

Ulster Unionist Aaron Callan wants a room in Roe Valley Arts and Culture Centre dedicated to Captain Marcus McCausland, who was the first UDR officer murdered in the Troubles.

The Sinn Fein councillor said that while he was pessimistic about his proposal gaining all-party support, he said it was nonetheless important to highlight the issue.

He explained: "I know at first-hand how hurtful the denial of equal rights is to the gay community.

"My own daughter Susan came out to me when she was 16.

"That was six years ago, and this is still a cold place for gay people, but I want to do what I can to change that.

"I remember well the day she told me.

"I just hugged her and told her I wished she would have told me earlier, so I could have supported her.

"I can't say I was shocked, but I just wished I could have been in a position to do more for her and that is a big part of why I feel it is important society sends out the message to all gay people that we are all the same and have the same right to get married.

"This is a wee place, surrounded by countries where gay marriage is happening, but we are showing ourselves to be a backward land, stuck in the past if we do not extend equal rights to marriage to gay couples.

"I do hope that the whole committee will support my motion and I will be appealing to them in earnest to do so." The other controversial proposal of a memorial room to honour Capt McCausland is also expected to attract prolonged debate.

While unionists are unlikely to lend support to Mr McCaul's motion, Mr Callan's proposal will be met with vehement opposition by Sinn Fein, which argues that council-owned and civic buildings should be neutral spaces for staff and visitors.

As well as serving in the UDR, Mr McCausland - a Catholic - was a unionist councillor in the old Limavady Urban Council.

Mr Callan said the contribution to Limavady during his time as a councillor was the main reason he wanted Captain McCausland commemorated.

He explained: "I think it is only fitting that the enormous contribution from Marcus McCausland as a councillor to Limavady is recognised, so I have proposed naming a room in the arts centre after him.

"Hopefully, it will be passed in time to mark the anniversary of his death in March.

"The arts centre in Limavady is where the old Limavady Urban Council held its meetings when it was the Town Hall and Marcus McCausland attended his last meeting there just days before he was murdered."

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