Belfast Telegraph

Amnesty 'unaware' of same-sex marriage pledge to Sinn Fein

Conor Murphy
Conor Murphy
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Amnesty International has said that it's not aware of any private assurances on the legalisation of same-sex marriage given to Sinn Fein by the Government.

The human rights organisation was speaking after Sinn Fein MLA Conor Murphy claimed the Government promised his party last year that if a restored Assembly failed to approve legislation on the issue, it would be passed by Westminster.

The Government yesterday insisted that same-sex marriage remains a devolved matter for Stormont.

Mr Murphy told BBC's Stephen Nolan Show that Sinn Fein negotiators received the assurance before the last talks process collapsed in February 2018.

"The issue of equal marriage was going to be presented in the Assembly.

"If it failed, we had an assurance it would be passed by Westminster," he said.

The MLA wouldn't be drawn on who exactly had made the pledge to his party. Asked whether Sinn Fein was comfortable cutting the DUP out of the process on equal marriage, Mr Murphy said: "That was the commitment that was given.

"There are well above sufficient numbers in the House of Commons to pass equal marriage for the North to ensure the rights that people enjoy in Britain, and the rights that people enjoy in the South, are delivered here."

Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan said: "We are not aware of any private assurance which the UK Government may have given to Sinn Fein last year.

"What we do know is that, as a draft DUP-Sinn Fein deal was shaping up last February, Karen Bradley gave an on-the-record response to a written question from Conor McGinn MP, which committed the Government only to allowing a free vote if backbenchers brought same-sex marriage legislation to Parliament.

"Just a week later, the political talks collapsed without agreement."

Mr Corrigan added: "In the intervening 15 months, the Government has not only not lifted a finger to bring marriage equality to Northern Ireland, but they have actively frustrated efforts to progress private members' bills which were subsequently introduced in both Houses of Parliament.

"The Love Equality campaign has a very simple message for politicians meeting in the coming weeks - if Stormont won't or can't deliver equality, then Westminster must.

"It is time to end second-class citizenship for the LGBT community in Northern Ireland."

A Northern Ireland Office spokesperson said: "It has been the UK Government's consistent position that the best way forward is for locally accountable politicians in Northern Ireland to make decisions that affect the lives of the people they serve."

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