Thousands attend rally to demand same sex marriage in Northern Ireland

Murdered journalist Lyra McKee’s partner is joined by 10,000 campaigners for march to demand same sex marriage in Northern Ireland

  • Around 10,000 people gathered at Belfast City Hall to call for same sex marriage
  • It was organised by groups such as Rainbow Project and Amnesty International 
  • Sara Canning, partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee, addressed the protest 
  • She asked why same-sex couples were treated differently in Northern Ireland 

Thousands of people have marched through Belfast city centre demanding same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It was estimated that around 10,000 were supporting the rally on Saturday, which was addressed by the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.

Sara Canning told the crowds gathered outside City Hall that a law change would be a ‘win’ for everyone in the region.

Ms Canning told the crowds gathered outside City Hall that a law change would be a ‘win’ for everyone in the region.

Thousands of people are marching through Belfast city centre demanding same sex marriage in Northern Ireland, including Sara Canning (centre left) – partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee

After being warmly applauded on to the stage, Ms Canning questioned why same-sex couple were treated differently in Northern Ireland than the rest of the UK, where same-sex marriage is legal.

‘We pay our taxes, we are governed by the same laws, we live deeply and we love dearly – why should we not be afforded the same rights in marriage?’ she asked.

‘Equal marriage is not a green or orange issue, a demand of just one side or the other and it shouldn’t be a political football.

‘Same-sex couples come from every single political, religious, cultural, and racial background. A vote passing on equal marriage would not be a ‘win’ for any one side, it would be a win for all sides.’

Before the rally, Ms Canning revealed she challenged the Prime Minister on the issue when she attended Ms McKee’s funeral in Belfast last month, urging Theresa May to step in and legislate on marriage laws above the head of the collapsed Stormont Assembly.

Ms Canning addressing the crowd on Saturday. She said a law change would be ‘a win’ for everyone 

Ms McKee, a 29-year-old journalist and author, was shot dead by dissident republicans as she observed rioting in Londonderry on April 18.

The region’s ban on same sex marriage is one of the key disputes at the heart of Northern Ireland’s powersharing impasse, with the Democratic Unionists resisting calls from Sinn Fein for a law change.

The socially conservative DUP is firmly opposed to any redefinition of the law, insisting marriage should be between a man and a woman.


Ms Mckee (left) was shot dead by dissident republications while she was reporting on rioting in Londonderry. Her partner Ms Canning (right) marched with a rainbow sign that spelled ‘Lyra’

Ms McKee’s death has injected fresh impetus into political efforts to resolve the deadlock at Stormont, with the UK and Irish governments have convened a new talks process in the hope of resolving stand-offs over same sex marriage and other key sticking points, such as Irish language legislation.

The rally was organised by the Love Equality campaign – an umbrella group made up of organisations that support a law change, such as Amnesty International and LGBT health advocacy group the Rainbow Project.

Rainbow Project director John O’Doherty drew a huge cheer from the crowd as he kissed his partner on stage as he addressed the rally.

The rally was organised by the Love Equality campaign – an umbrella group made up of organisations that support a law change

‘Like so many of you I stand today with my better half, the love of my life – angry and frustrated – that another year has passed without our love being recognised as equal under the law,’ he said.

‘Another year of second-class citizenship and being ignored by those in power.

‘No party or group of MLAs should hold a veto over people lives, over people’s rights – and this campaign will not be held to ransom by those who seek to hold Northern Ireland back – who refuse to recognise the rights of LGBT people and our families.

‘Our message is clear – any return of the Executive and the Assembly must include real reform of the petition of concern. Upfront reform, not an afterthought or a postscript to any deal or a can to be kicked down the road. We need a government for all the people, not just some people. No other government deserves our support.

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