Belfast Telegraph

Veteran unionists call for referendum on Irish language, same-sex marriage and legacy issues

By Rebecca Black

A trio of senior unionist politicians have called for a referendum to be called to allow the public to make the decision on three of the issues causing deadlock in the talks.

The issues are whether there should be a stand-alone Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, whether same-sex marriage should be legalised in Northern Ireland and whether our abortion laws should be relaxed.

These are among the reasons why political talks to restore Stormont have remained deadlocked for a year.

Former Ukip MLA David McNarry, former Ulster Unionist chairman David Campbell and ex Ulster Unionist MLA Michael McGimpsey launched their Breaking The Deadlock document this morning (Thurs) at the Stormont Hotel, shortly before Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney announced fresh talks between the parties.

Launching Breaking The Deadlock, Mr Campbell said: “Each of us played a significant role in the negotiations resulting in the Belfast Agreement and in the establishment and operation of the first periods of devolution. We firmly believe that inclusive devolution represents the best means of providing peace and stability to Northern Ireland, and stable devolved government can maximise economic and social benefits to all our citizens.

“We are dismayed that the current impasse appears to be beyond resolving by the two main parties in the Assembly. We would offer the following suggestion which may break the current deadline, and if agreed, could enable the immediate formation of an Executive

“It would appear that there are three main issues of disagreement: The demand for a stand-alone Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland, the demand for the legal admissibility of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland and the demand for the relaxation of the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

“One possible solution to break the deadlock would be to consult the Northern Ireland electorate on these issues. A referendum vote could take place in May/June.”

Mr McNarry formerly served as a special advisor to David Trimble during his tenure as First Minister before switching to Ukip.

Mr Campbell also served as a special advisor to Mr Trimble and is a former chair of the UUP. Last year he announced he had resigned from the UUP and planned to vote for the DUP.

Mr McGimpsey was an Ulster Unionist MLA for South Belfast from 1998 to 2016 and counts Health and Culture among the Stormont portfolios he held during his career.

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