Belfast Telegraph

Government gave Sinn Fein 'assurance' it would pass equal marriage legislation for Northern Ireland

Parties return to Stormont in latest bid to restore the NI Executive

Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, party leader Mary-Lou McDonald, and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, walking to speak with media ahead of talks at Stormont House in Belfast
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, party leader Mary-Lou McDonald, and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, walking to speak with media ahead of talks at Stormont House in Belfast
UUP leader Robin Swann (centre front), with party colleagues Steve Aiken (left), and Doug Beattie (right), speaking to the media ahead of talks at Stormont House in Belfast
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood (2L) speaks to the media on his arrival for a new round of political talks chaired by the British and Irish Governments, at Stormont House, Belfast on May 7, 2019.
Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swan speaks to the media on his arrival for a new round of political talks chaired by the British and Irish Governments, at Stormont House, Belfast on May 7, 2019.
Sinn Fein's Conor Murphy, party leader Mary-Lou McDonald, and deputy leader Michelle O'Neill, walking to speak with media ahead of talks at Stormont House in Belfast
Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Robin Swann attends cross party talks at Stormont on May 7, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein’s Conor Murphy

A Sinn Fein MLA has claimed the British Government gave assurances that if a restored Stormont Executive failed to pass legislation on equal marriage that it would be passed by Westminster.

Newry and Armagh MLA Conor Murphy told the BBC's Nolan Show that Sinn Fein's negotiating team received the assurance from the British government before the last round of talks collapsed in February 2018.

"The issue of equal marriage was going to be presented in the assembly, if it failed, we had an assurance that it would be passed by Westminster," Mr Murphy said.

The Sinn Fein MLA would not be drawn on who exactly gave the assurance.

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He added: "There was a question put down in terms of the Tory party's attitude to the equal marriage ahead of the deal reached at the end of February which confirmed the position that if the assembly failed or blocked the issue of equal marriage then it would be legislated for in Westminster."

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Naomi Long and the Alliance talks team at Stormont on May 7, 2019

Asked whether Sinn Fein was comfortable cutting the DUP out of the process regarding 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 people that people enjoy in the South after delivered here.

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Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader Colum Eastwood (2L) speaks to the media on his arrival for a new round of political talks chaired by the British and Irish Governments, at Stormont House, Belfast on May 7, 2019.

"There was more than enough support, it did not require the DUP's votes to pass any such legislation."

Asked whether the party was happy to see Westminster imposing legislation above the heads of democratically elected politicians in Northern Ireland, Mr Murphy said the British government, as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, had a responsibility to ensure the rights of people living in Northern Ireland.

"If that is done in Westminster then so be it," he said.

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Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party, Robin Swann attends cross party talks at Stormont on May 7, 2019 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

The DUP and the Northern Ireland Office have been approached for comment.

The UK and Irish governments have convened a new talks process to try to break the logjam that has left the region without a properly functioning government for over two years.

Leaders of the five main parties have been invited to Stormont House - the UK Government's base on the Stormont estate in Belfast - for an opening meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

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