Saturday 19 October 2019

Micheál Martin calls for referendum on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland to 'break logjam' in talks

Micheal Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Micheal Martin. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin makes his address in front of the commemoration wall at Arbour Hill cemetery. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has suggested that a referendum on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland could help break the impasse in the upcoming talks.

The Irish and British governments have announced renewed talks aimed at restoring the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

It came after the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by the New IRA on April 18.

Mr Martin was speaking as members of his party gathered at Arbour Hill cemetery for its annual 1916 Rising Commemoration. He said Fianna Fáil welcomed the announcement of renewed talks, but added: "Clearly Sinn Féin and the DUP have deep problems with how they deal with each other."

The Northern Ireland Executive collapsed more than two years ago in a row over a renewable heat incentive scheme.

However, Sinn Féin and the DUP have since clashed over an Irish Language Act for Northern Ireland and same-sex marriage.

1916 Rising memorial: Eoin Carroll (9), Charlie McAllister (3), Cillian Devlin (6), Torah Devlin (5) and Conor McMorland (6) with lilies in front of the commemoration wall at Arbour Hill cemetery. Photo: Gerry Mooney
1916 Rising memorial: Eoin Carroll (9), Charlie McAllister (3), Cillian Devlin (6), Torah Devlin (5) and Conor McMorland (6) with lilies in front of the commemoration wall at Arbour Hill cemetery. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Mr Martin suggested that one way forward would be for the suspension or limitation of the so-called "petition of concern procedure" in the Assembly. This mechanism has been used by the DUP in the past to block same-sex marriage in the North, which is the only place in the UK where it is not legal.

Mr Martin said that alternatively an immediate commitment for a referendum on same-sex marriage that would quickly follow the restoration of the institutions "might be a way out" and could "break the logjam".

He said that whatever is done it requires the parties to "move beyond their short-term interests" and return to the kind of leadership shown during the negotiation of the Good Friday Agreement.

He said: "In my view, the institutions should never have been collapsed over the heating scandal."

Mr Martin said that when such issues arise they should be dealt with "but you don't collapse parliament... that was a fundamental mistake that was made".

Irish Independent

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