Sinn Fein criticised by LGBT group over same-sex marriage plans

Sinn Fein figures attend a same-sex marriage event in Stormont organised to coincide with St Valentine's Day
Sinn Fein figures attend a same-sex marriage event in Stormont organised to coincide with St Valentine's Day

An LGBT rights group at the forefront of the campaign for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland has criticised Sinn Fein’s handling of their recent talks with the DUP.

The Rainbow Project is one of the leading groups behind the ‘Love Equality’ campaign to allow same-sex couples to marry in Northern Ireland.

Their advocacy and policy manager, Gavin Boyd, offered a “critique” of the “public commitments” made by Sinn Fein during the negotiations to restore power-sharing government.

The republican party has repeatedly emphasised the importance of same-sex marriage in its public statements during the past 13 months of political deadlock.

But a version of the draft agreement the party claimed to have reached with the DUP, which was leaked to the journalists Brian Rowan and Eamon Mallie, revealed no commitment to securing same-sex marriage legislation.

The text of the draft agreement did, however, contain a commitment to legislate for other issues important to the party, including an Irish language act.

Mr Boyd, speaking to the News Letter yesterday, stressed that while Sinn Fein was an “ally” of the campaign for same-sex marriage, he did urge the party to “reflect on how they make their public commmitments”.

“Yes, there are legitimate criticisms of the way all parties, including Sinn Fein, have conducted themselves over the past 13 months,” he said.

“There are going to be people who are bitterly disappointed that the agreement has not been everything that they felt that it should have been.

“I think the parties should reflect on how they make their public commitments, and how they facilitate their electorates when it comes to considering compromises.”

Asked whether that comment was a reference specifically to Sinn Fein and some of their public statements, he replied: “Yeah, sure. I don’t think it has been productive for any party to suggest that without marriage equality there will be no Executive, because here we have an agreement which doesn’t have marriage equality in it.”

Mr Boyd said his group would have liked to have seen reforms agreed “up front” to the controversial ‘petition of concern’. The petition of concern is a mechanism which was used by the DUP in 2015 to block a bill allowing same-sex marriage here, which had been backed by a slim majority of MLAs.

Mr Boyd added: “For me it is a matter of disappointment.”