NI same-sex marriage: MPs may get free vote under election bill

A majority of people in the UK believe same-sex marriage should be allowed in Northern Ireland
A majority of people in the UK believe same-sex marriage should be allowed in Northern Ireland
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Secretary of State Karen Bradley says that MPs could get a free vote in Westminster on introducing same-sex marriage into Northern Ireland, if the matter comes before Parliament.

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is bringing forward legislation in Westminster to once again delay the requirement for assembly elections.

However a cross-party group of MPs is to try and amend the bill in order to legalise same-sex-marriage in Northern Ireland.

Legislation to allow delays in assembly elections became law in November but was due to expire in March.

The law gave NI Secretary Karen Bradley the ability to order a one-off extension, which ends on 25 August.

MPs will debate the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) early next week.

A cross-party group of MPs has said it plans to table an amendment to the bill seeking to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, the BBC reported.

Labour MP Conor McGinn - who has previously put forward similar amendments - told MPs he planned to do so again and called on Ms Bradley to support it.

Although the BBC said the government plans to oppose the amendment, Mrs Bradley reiterated she is in favour of same-sex marriage for Northern Ireland and that if the matter came before Parliament, the government would allow MPs a free vote, the BBC reported.

It is not clear by how long the NIO plans to push back the date of assembly elections. The BBC reported it could be October but that the NIO had declined to comment.

When Mrs Bradley first extended the legislation in March, she told MPs she did not want to do so - but that it would give the Stormont parties “more space” to try and reach a deal to end more than two years of political deadlock.

In May, the British and Irish governments began a fresh talks process, after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee. But after nine weeks there is no indication of a pending agreement.

Sinn Fein has said the talks have stalled, blaming the 12 July holiday season, while the DUP has said Sinn Fein has failed to turn up to recent sessions.