Thursday 23 May 2019

'Our policy hasn't changed' - Arlene Foster says Lyra McKee's death does not affect DUP's stance on gay marriage

  • DUP leader says she wants to see the assembly back up and running now
  • Rejects any assertion that the political vacuum contributed to Lyra McKee's murder
  • Says that while she sympathised with Ms McKee's partner, DUP's policy on gay marriage will not change
DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) speaks with Sara Canning (left), the partner of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, at a vigil in Derry, following her death last night after guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a
DUP leader Arlene Foster (right) speaks with Sara Canning (left), the partner of 29-year-old journalist Lyra McKee, at a vigil in Derry, following her death last night after guns were fired and petrol bombs were thrown in what police are treating as a "terrorist incident". Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Lyra McKee at her funeral at St. Anne's Cathedral in Belfast. Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
Order of service for the funeral of Lyra McKee (Brian Lawless/PA)
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

DUP leader Arlene Foster says that while she sympathised with the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, the party's stance on gay marriage hasn't changed.

Ms Foster said "you cannot conflate sympathy and empathy with the political definition of marriage" when asked about the warm words of Father Martin McGill at Ms McKee's funeral yesterday.

Fr McGill said he willingly acknowledged the love between Lyra and her partner Sara Canning from a pastoral point of view, saying there is a variety of views in the Church on homosexuality.

Ms Foster was asked on RTÉ's Morning Ireland about how her party refused Ms McKee equality in her lifetime and whether the DUP would change that view.

"We have a long standing policy which hasn't changed. That remains the position of the party," she said.

"That doesn't mean I cannot sympathise and empathise with Sara and say to her that we feel her love. Her loss was all of our loss because this was a young woman who was doing great things in journalism and living her life in a city that she adopted.

"You shouldn't conflate the two issues of empathy and sympathy and a political issue which is the definition of marriage."

While the party is running an openly gay candidate in the local council elections, the DUP opposes same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, the DUP leader said she didn't accept the collapse of Stormont contributed to Ms McKee's death, but she said the party shares responsibility for not having an assembly.

"It [the violence] was fueled by people who wanted to use violence to further their own warped political agenda. That's why Lyra is dead and I think most people objectively think that is right.

"That's not to say say we don't share responsibility for not having an assembly, of course we do. It's wrong. That's why I believe we need to get it up and running as quickly as possible.

"We need to have an agreement that works for nationalism and unionism. We want to see a balanced deal for all the people of Northern Ireland."

She said she would like to see the assembly back up and running now and a parallel talks process to deal with all the other issues.

Meanwhile, a £10,000 reward has been offered for information which leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the murder of Ms McKee.

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead as she observed rioting in Derry's Creggan estate last Thursday.

Police said they believe dissident republican group the New IRA was behind the attack and, on Monday night, the group accepted responsibility for the murder.

The £10,000 reward is being offered by the charity Crimestoppers.

Detective Superintendent Jason Murphy, who is leading the investigation into Lyra McKee's murder, said he hopes the reward will help bring those responsible to justice.

“Lyra tragically lost her life when bullets were fired indiscriminately into the community in Creggan. It was a senseless murder of a gifted young woman and Lyra’s family and loved ones have been left devastated by their loss," he said.

“I want to find the people who murdered Lyra and the information that can help us bring Lyra’s killer to justice lies within the local community. People saw the gunman – people know who is responsible. I’m asking them to come forward and help us.

“We have received widespread public support to date and if this reward further encourages some individuals to come forward, this may help assist us in our efforts to get some justice for Lyra and her loved ones.”

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