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
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."
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.
"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.
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.
Belfast Telegraph Digital