Current Affairs Politics

LGBT Rights In Ireland Cannot Be Partitioned

The Irish Tricolour flies over Belfast City Hall – what real democracy would look like in the North of Ireland


The Irish Tricolour, the national flag of Ireland, flies over Belfast City Hall - well, it will do so eventually!
The rights of Irish citizens do not stop at any “border” on our island nation

No doubt most of you are aware that the referendum proposing the addition of a gender-neutral description of marriage to Bunreacht na hÉireann was passed by the Irish electorate last Friday, and with a substantive majority. In future – and the very near future – same-sex marriages will become legal in Ireland, once the framework legislation has been put in place by the Oireachtas. However, and in stark contrast with the national situation, in the north-east of the country homo- and bisexual individuals will continue to be denied the same rights as their heterosexual peers elsewhere across our island nation. Under the regional administration at Stormont – and subsidised by the UK authorities – same-sex unions will remain illegal. Such antiquated discrimination is largely at the behest of the British unionist parties in the north, principally the DUP, UUP and TUV, though some members of the moderate unionists of the Alliance Party and of the nationalist SDLP share the prejudices of the religio-political extreme.

With only Sinn Féin, the regional branch of the Irish Green Party and a handful of others – notably several activists with the unionist and formerly paramilitary-aligned Progressive Unionist Party – supporting marriage-equality it seems likely that the campaign in the north-east to change attitudes will be a long and hard fought one. Indeed the main unionist parties seem to regard the advocacy for LGBT rights to be part of a broader “republican plot” to undermine Britain’s paracolony in Ireland. Which simply indicates how far out-of-step with the European mainstream the anachronistic ideology of British unionism on this island nation has become since its heyday in the 1920s and ‘30s.

From the Derry Journal:

“Derry representatives from both Sinn Fein and the SDLP have said their parties will now continue to fight for the north to adopt the right of same sex couples to get married and to have their marriages recognised.

SDLP Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood has said that the Referendum in the south – which saw over 60% of people voting for same sex marriage to be authorised and given equal status – was a historic moment for Ireland.

He said: “The south will soon legalise Marriage Equality through a popular vote, it’s important now that the north embraces change and that Ireland, as an island and a nation, supports our LGBT brothers and sisters.”

Sinn Féin Derry-Strabane Councillor Sandra Duffy said her party would continue its campaign for marriage equality for all in the north.

Colr. Duffy said: “I’m delighted the people have voted overwhelmingly in favour of marriage equality for all. This referendum was all about equality, inclusion and respect for our LGBTI brothers and sisters.

Sinn Féin played a very positive and active role in the Yes campaign. The fact so many of our people returned home to vote highlighted yet again the need to tackle the issue of voting rights for the diaspora and for Irish citizens in the North.

The marriage equality rights that will be enjoyed by Irish citizens in the south must be shared by citizens in the north.”

These views have been echoed by Gerry Adams TD, the SF president. It is unacceptable that Irish men and women, regardless of their sexual orientation or original gender, should be denied their full rights as citizens of this republic simply because they are forced to live under the authority of the “Northern Pale”. Civil rights – lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights – cannot be “partitioned” as our nation is.

There is no border for equality.

8 comments on “LGBT Rights In Ireland Cannot Be Partitioned

  1. eileen healy

    There’s no border to bad weather either (unless one is on the lucky side of a bad storm) but the fact that some people “will not forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the grey mists of an Irish Republic” must reinforce children’s belief in fairytales and the existence of “magic kingdoms”
    I have a photograph somewhere of my husband beside one of those artworks taken on a July (end!) in 1986. Not a great shot as it was not misting but “bucketing rain”.

    I’m off on a tangent again!


  2. “There is no border for equality”. –
    Seems there is Séamas.

    Unionists in NI are blocking both Ireland and the UK from declaring they fully support this area of human rights.

    Unionists probably derive a perverse satisfaction and pleasure from this – thinking it shows how important they are to both countries, as they can prevent the citizens of each from fully implementing their will and the will of their parliaments.

    Time for NI Unionists to be given their proper importance and weight – that of a tiny minority in each country


  3. It’s not unionists that are blocking the legalisation of Gay marriage in Northern Ireland, but the D.U.P., and there is a difference, as I doubt that D.U.P. politicians are even representative of their own voters. If there was a referendum tomorrow I have no doubt that a majority of both Unionists and Nationalists would vote in favour, I, as a non-voting, small u unionist certainly would. It seems to have been forgotten that people like Jeff Dudgeon, a prominent Ulster Unionist have been fighting for Gay rights for a very long time, long before Sinn Fein took an interest in the subject.


    • Hi, Ginger. Of the four main unionist parties, three – the DUP, UUP and TUV – are policy-committed to opposing same-sex marriages (and in some cases, LGBT rights in general). The fourth party, the AP, seems to be permanently committed to sitting on the fence. There are of course individual unionist politicians who favour legalising equal-marriage or LGBT rights, and the minor PUP have made the right noises in this area as I mentioned, however the big three unionist parties are in opposition.

      I’m not saying nationalists are without fault. The SDLP has seen its own internal divisions and splits on the issue in recent times with MLAs absenting themselves from key votes in the assembly or elsewhere. However SF is committed, as party policy, to legislate for gay-marriage.

      On the unionist community as a whole I simply don’t know what way they would vote given the opportunity. It may well be, if put to the vote, that the combined weight of conservative opinion in both communities would block change.

      However at least SF and some others are articulating the progressive voice.

      Of course, I admit to approaching this matter from an all-Ireland aspect rather than a partitioned one.


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