Sarah Canning, the partner of the journalist Lyra McKee, has called on top politicians to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland ahead of an equality march that will take place in Belfast next week.
Lyra McKee was a journalist who covered the Troubles in Northern Ireland, who was fatally shot while covering riots in Derry in April. Four men have since been arrested in connection with the shooting.
Canning has said that at McKee’s funeral last month, she spoke to UK Prime Minister Theresa May, Ireland Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley about legalising same-sex marriage.
Canning and McKee had spoken about getting married before McKee’s death, with Canning hoping to pop the question on a trip to New York they had planned for this week.
“We talked about getting married in Donegal, but really we wanted our love and our marriage to be recognised in Northern Ireland, just the same as the rest of our family members and friends,” she explained.
Same-Sex Marriage In Northern Ireland
Image credit: Flickr
Even though same-sex marriage has been legal in the UK since 2014, it is not legally recognised in Northern Ireland.
The Assembly, Northern Ireland’s Parliament, has voted on equal marriage legalisation five times, passing it on the fifth attempt. However, the leading Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) have consistently blocked any changes with a petition of concern, which requires the proposal achieve a cross-community majority.
The Assembly has been suspended since 2017 due to disagreements between the DUP and Sinn Féin, who must join together in a power-sharing executive in order to lead the Northern Ireland Assembly. Because of this ongoing suspension, it has been difficult for Northern Ireland to pass through laws such as same-sex marriage.
The country is facing increasing pressure from organisations such as the UN about its human rights record, and the UK has begun to issue guidance to the country on how it can improve laws and create better equality.
We’re not a devolved State anymore. We’re completely unsuccessful, so the British government has to be our government and they have to be our voice and they have to do better.
Sara Canning, murdered journalist Lyra McKee’s partner
At the funeral, Canning told Theresa May it was time for Westminister to step in and create equal marriage legislation.
“I basically told her she was massively derelict in her duties to Northern Ireland, and successive governments have [been],” she told Channel 4 News. “I told her that to tell us issues like gay marriage and abortion rights are a devolved matter is completely out of order.
“We’re not a devolved State anymore. We’re completely unsuccessful. It has been shown that we can’t work together, so the British Government has to be our government and they have to be our voice and they have to do better.”
Canning added that Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar must “facilitate” conversations between Westminister and Stormont.
“I’m putting my trust in you – you’re a world leader, and you have a presence here. You need to use it for good,” she told Varadkar.
March For Equality
Image credit: Flickr
On May 18, protestors will march through Belfast to demand that Stormont re-establishes itself and deliver equal marriage. If the devolution is not ended, then protestors will call for the UK Government to intervene and end discrimination.
“This march will be a demonstration of that support, a demand which must be heard in the corridors of Stormont and Westminster.”
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International
“It is time for political leaders in Belfast and London to respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland, which is overwhelmingly in support of marriage equality,” explained Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International and a member of the Love Equality campaign for equal marriage.
“This march will be a demonstration of that support, a demand which must be heard in the corridors of Stormont and Westminster. Marriage equality in Northern Ireland is a litmus test for whether or not any future devolved government is committed to treating all citizens equally.
“If Stormont is incapable of delivering equality for people here, then it is the responsibility of Westminster to end discrimination against the LGBT community.”
Canning added that herself and McKee “had a right to be treated as equal citizens in our own country”, and that she would be speaking at the march for marriage equality on May 18 in Belfast.
Main image credit: Pixabay