Belfast Telegraph

Amendment a fantastic victory, says Armagh-born MP McGinn

Delighted: Conor McGinn
Delighted: Conor McGinn

Michael McHugh and William James

Same-sex marriage and extended access to abortion in Northern Ireland are a step closer after MPs in Westminster voted to legalise both if a new Stormont Executive is not formed by October.

The House of Commons decided by a majority of 310 - 383 to 73 - to include a provision allowing for same-sex marriage in legislation. MPs also voted in favour of extending access to abortion by a majority of 233.

The legislation has several stages to pass before it creates a legal duty on the Government to amend Northern Ireland's laws. That duty only comes into effect if the Assembly has not been re-established by October 21.

Labour MP Conor McGinn, who is from Co Armagh, led the cross-party bid with an amendment to address the issue of same-sex marriage at Westminster yesterday. He described its passing as "a fantastic victory".

"Having been let down so many times before, LGBT people in Northern Ireland can now look forward to enjoying the same rights as everyone else in the rest of the UK and on the island of Ireland," he tweeted.

Mr McGinn stressed that he hoped the Assembly would be restored and working by October 21.

"But if Stormont still isn't functioning by then, the LGBT community in Northern Ireland now know that Westminster will act to ensure equality and respect for all citizens, and finally give them the right to marry the person they love," the MP added.

The DUP has been vehemently opposed to same-sex marriage and the liberalisation of abortion. Its eight voting MPs opposed both amendments, while two acted as non-voting tellers.

The division list for the access to abortion amendment showed it was supported by 210 Labour MPs, 72 Conservatives, 11 Independents, 20 SNP, four Change UK, 10 Liberal Democrats, four Plaid Cymru and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

The list also showed that 84 Conservatives voted against the amendment, along with Independent North Down MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, five Labour, eight DUP and two SNP MPs.

After MPs voted in favour of her abortion bill, Labour MP Stella Creasy tweeted: "Thank you to everyone who today stood up for equality in Northern Ireland - whether for same-sex marriage or abortion, today we have said everyone in the UK deserves to be treated as an equal."

The division list for the same-sex marriage amendment showed it was supported by 105 Conservative MPs, 222 Labour, 25 SNP, 10 Liberal Democrats, four Plaid Cymru, four Change UK, 12 Independent MPs, including Lady Hermon, and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

The list also showed 65 Conservative MPs voted against it along with eight DUP. The amendment was approved by 383 votes to 73, a majority of 310.

During the debate, DUP MP Nigel Dodds revealed that talks on renewing his party's confidence and supply arrangement with the Conservative Government would include legal underpinning of a military covenant in Northern Ireland.

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