Belfast Telegraph

NI Election: Gay marriage and abortion reform some way off yet despite election

By David Gordon

The DUP has lost its ability to trigger a petition of concern. Same-sex marriage is on its way in Northern Ireland. Abortion law reform too.

Everything has changed.

Well, not necessarily; not just yet, anyway.

The DUP falling below the crunch 30 seats mark is certainly a significant moment.

It makes a Stormont vote legalising gay marriage more likely, but not inevitable.

For a start - to state the obvious - we need to have an Assembly there first.

That is still far from guaranteed.

The change could, of course, also be introduced under direct rule. But don't be shocked if the NIO opts to kick that into touch for a prolonged period.

Direct rule ministers have never been in a hurry to annoy the Churches.

If the Assembly does survive, it's more than possible that two MLAs from outside the DUP could add their names to the petition of concern blocking mechanism.

TUV leader Jim Allister has already indicated he's likely to do so. And the UUP has its fair share of social conservatives in its ranks - including politicians who have previously voted against a law change.

Abortion law reform - even on the limited grounds of fatal foetal abnormality - will be more of a challenge. The Assembly arithmetic will be hard to predict, but it's an issue that is likely to cause problems for and within the SDLP, as well as the DUP and UUP.

So-called culture wars between social conservatives and liberals are raging all over the world. Fuelled by righteous and not so righteous anger, the debates are rarely uplifting. Social media often fans the flames.

Is it too much to hope for some quieter and better conversations away from Twitter?

I tentatively suggest that as someone who would be regarded as a fully paid-up member of the liberal metropolitan elite (I used to work for the BBC after all).

If liberals are on the brink of major victories here, the challenge for them is surely to win with dignity and not rub their opponents' noses in the dirt of defeat.

I don't make a habit of quoting US talk show hosts, but Jimmy Kimmel had this to say when hosting the Oscars: "The country is divided right now. People have been telling me I need to say something to unite us. I'm not the man to unite this country.

"There are millions and millions of people watching right now, and if every one of you took a minute to reach out to one person you disagree with and have a positive, considerate conversation - not as liberals or conservatives but as Americans - if we all did that it would make America great again.

"It starts with us."

Hopelessly bland and naive?

Or could applying the Kimmel principle help us through difficult issues in our politics and across society?

Maybe he could chair the Stormont talks...

  • David Gordon is the former Executive Press Secretary

Results centre - select a constituency - every result as it happened -

North Antrim - East Antrim - South Antrim - North Belfast - East Belfast - South Belfast - West Belfast - Strangford - South Down - Lagan Valley - Upper Bann - Newry and Armagh - Fermanagh & South Tyrone - West Tyrone - Mid Ulster - East Londonderry - Foyle - North Down

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