MPs press UK Government to legislate for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Labour MP Owen Smith has asked the UK Government if it would be prepared to legislate to extend same-sex marriage rights to Northern Ireland.

The MP for Pontypridd invited the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley, to consider legislating similarly to extend equal marriage rights to Northern Ireland. He added, “we believe that she should, and we will support her if she does so. To be clear, a Labour Government would legislate on that if Stormont could not do so.” 

Ms Bradley refused to be drawn on the matter in the House, however, responding to an earlier written question by Labour MP Conor McGinn, the Secretary of State said: “In accordance with the Belfast Agreement, this is a devolved matter which should be addressed in the NI Assembly; but the power of the Westminster Parliament to legislate remains unaffected. If this issue were to be raised in Westminster, the Government’s policy is to allow a free vote on matters of conscience such as equal marriage.”

It appears that, whilst reluctant to do so, the UK Government has not ruled out the possibility of legislating directly whilst Northern Ireland is without a devolved administration following the collapse of the power sharing agreement between the DUP and Sinn Fein early in 2017.

There is every chance a willing MP might soon bring forward a Private Members Bill in order to hold a vote in the UK Parliament with a view to extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland. A decision of this magnitude, however, is surely one for the elected representatives of the people in Stormont and not for Westminster. All energies should be directed toward seeking a resolution to the lack of political leadership in Northern Ireland and not used by opportunists to force their own agendas in other lands.