Marriage Equality motion fails in the Assembly

Today the Assembly narrowly rejected a Sinn Fein motion on Marriage Equality 47 votes in favour to 49 against. Three Alliance MLAs abstained and five SDLP MLAs did not turn up for the vote (I understand one had a family bereavement.) Of the 53 Unionists who voted just four supported the motion (Danny Kinahan, Basil McCrea, Claire Sugden and John McCallister).

In speaking about the motion and the DUPs petition of concern,  the Sinn Fein MLA for Newry & Armagh, Megan Fearon said:

It is disappointing that the DUP have tabled a Petition of Concern to block this important motion.

However, it’s important progressive politicians send a clear message of support for the LGBT community by voting in large numbers for marriage equality.

On social media, the SDLP and Alliance parties received a lot of grief as (even though it would’ve made little difference) had either the 3 Alliance MLAs or the 5 SDLP MLAs supported the motion it would’ve had a majority in favour.

As he responded for the DUP, Peter Weir noted the division on the opposite side of the house saying:

For some of those parties who position themselves as the champions of same-sex marriage, today’s debate simply highlighted their own internal difficulties. There is always a question as to whether we should be concerned for the wellbeing of several SDLP MLAs who just happen to go missing when such a debate is taking place. Similarly, despite the supposed fulsome support of the Alliance Party, three of the MLAs today could not bring themselves to vote in support.

For all their talk about equality, in both the SDLP and Alliance, it seems that all members are not equal when it comes to same sex marriage.

The NI21 MLA, Basil McCrea put out a video that was also critical of the SDLP and Alliance parties for how some of their MLAs had voted/not been present


I suppose the question has to be put, should the discipline shown from those who oppose this motion be adopted to the same extent on the other side of the argument or should a more loose free vote policy be adopted across the chamber?

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  • mickfealty

    Free votes are coming for the DUP, apparently (

    We’re the party that’s looking for a conscience clause. It would be a bit odd if we were seeking to have a conscience clause for people in the community and weren’t to allow our own members to have a free vote on those matters.”

  • Gopher

    Today was just a case of the Trojan horse getting deployed had absolutely nothing to do with getting gay marriage. Looks like Alliance and SDLP came off the worse.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Naomi Long came across very poorly on FB today, she seems to have an unhealthy obsession with the DUP and now she is stating that free votes for the Alliance are only free if Alliance hierarchy views are adhered to. She has stated the three MLAs who did not back the petition will be cross examined by the party – seems that there are dark forces at work here too.

  • Croiteir

    It is dishonest for the members to duck this. I would suppose that they do so due to pressure from within their own party, Naomi’s statement would support this supposition.

  • Gopher

    Alliance and the SDLP have been “mugged” on this if it was a genuine attempt to achieve gay marriage why put Gerry Kelly on point? I thought Alliance had learnt their lesson (The SDLP never learn) about being sent over the top by SF. Now I hear both parties are at the recieving end of social media. Asymetric warfare before an election what a coincedence especially with those that care about gay marriage have got themselves into an emotional frenzy on a thousand keyboards whilst the DUP are now safe in the their bunkers (Using Gerry Kelly assured that) its a nice little trojan horse.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    But you got to admire the Trojan Horse Gopher ! It Cares or Gives nothing to every political opponent – Holds its Cabal Whip to all it’s MLA’s ,Obiliterates the Hide & Seek SDLP Manifesto just before election. Sail’s Naomi’s Titanic boat down Belfast Lough never to be seen again, but hey the horse is “Progressive” and “We’re all in it Together” Bollicks – It’s still “Ourselves Alone !”

  • chrisjones2

    So Alliance and the Stoops ducked out


  • Ernekid

    They’ll be replaced but they won’t be replaced by new SDLP MLAs.

    What’s the point of the SDLP if they can’t even be bothered to vote for civil rights the parties raison d’être?
    I voted SDLP at the last Assembly elections I won’t next time.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    The Shinners gave the DUP a Penalty Kick in the last minute of the game ! and Peter stepped up in his nice shinny Irish Cup Final Glentoran Top and just rammed the ball into the top corner of the back of the net ! Game ! Set and Match ! and the winning crowd and supporters chant East ! East ! East-Belfast !
    Feck it’s Roy of the Rovers Stuff !

  • Turgon

    Joe Hoggs makes a very interesting observation about Naomi Long above. Maybe Long intends to be a more dictatorial leader than Ford?

    However, there may also be an additional closer to home issue at stake. Judith Cochrane replaced Naomi Long as Alliance MLA for East Belfast when Long became MP. Long and Cochrane both go to the same church, as did I for several years – though when I was there Long’s attendances strangely coincided almost entirely with election time, unlike Cochrane who was always there.

    Furthermore Bloomfield Presbyterian Church was quite vocal in the anti homosexual marriage lobby (it had petitions etc.). That is a few years ago they might have changed their mind though I would be surprised.

    In addition I have heard that Long and Cochrane no longer get on, on a personal level.

    It may be that Long is trying to damage Cochrane especially as she (Long) is likely to lose in East Belfast and would then actually be unemployed and looking for a constituency. Clearly she could be parachuted into Strangford or the like (not a big parachute needed in view of the distance) but might well prefer to have Cochrance dumped out amongst the farmers and retake “her own seat”.

    I am sure even “progressives” and “progressive parties” have internal machinations and even letsgetalongerists do not always get along.

  • Mister_Joe

    There needs to be some limits on “Petitions of concern”. I believe the idea was to prevent a Party or Parties trying to go back to the old ways of ignoring what was important to one community. This system is being abused by both the main parties.

  • Rónán Ó’Cinnéide

    Its an intrinsic feature of the particular variant of powersharing NI suffers from. But instead of being used to halt legitimate community based concerns about domination, its used as a brake on progressive policies.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    You have hit it on the head Turgon – The Battle within the Alliance Party has commenced and it’s going to be messy which could lead to implosion but best they can get it sorted out by end off 2015 to put forward a creditable campaign for 2016 Assembly Elections. If not they could be in for a bigger shock at the 2016 Assembly Elections !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Use Cricket Rules Joe. Every Party has two PoCs per year they are allowed to use !

  • Gopher

    I admire the total confidence SF have in Alliance and the SDLP’s stupidity.

  • Gopher

    Agree 100% agree Joe

  • Gopher

    If a petition of concerned is used the issue should go to referendum at the next election that would stop its abuse stone dead.

  • Dan

    I heard 15 year old Ms Fearon sending ‘solidarity to her comrades’ in the 26 counties……and then after she said of Wells,’his masked slipped’, she stated that ‘it is important to remember that he is not the only person wearing one!’

    We know Ms Fearon, we know.

  • Barneyt

    yes indeed. In American football, you can throw a flag on to the field if you want to contest a decision. These are limited. You have to choose which battle to fight. Is there room for a similar system with regard to the POC? I suspect not, however I suspect one of these we flegs would be reserved for such matters, which reflects the skewed nature of the society that some are trying to control and shape.

  • Barneyt

    Are you sure Ms Fearon is wearing a mask when it comes to “All-Ireland” views? I would doubt it.

  • Jag

    “On social media, the SDLP and Alliance parties received a lot of grief as (even though it would’ve made little difference) had either the 3 Alliance MLAs or the 5 SDLP MLAs supported the motion it would’ve had a majority in favour.”

    That doesn’t make sense, if the result yesterday was 49-47. Surely, if either or both the three Alliance/five SDLP MLAs had been there to vote in favour, the result would have been 49-50 or 49-52 or 49-55, all results which would have seen marriage equality supported by a majority of MLAs.

    Yes, the petition of concern would then have kicked in and the motion would have failed because 90%-plus of themmuns voted against, but it would still have been a big moral victory for marriage equality.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Naomi Long is a politician whom I don’t mind too much, however her negative campaign against Unionist parties has cost her votes in what is a Unionist constituency. The dictatorship approach she is enforcing regarding the MLA team will do more harm.

    Paula Bradshaw was quick to jump on social media last night knowing she is in deep trouble. With voters leaving her campaign in droves she has been unable to explain why she has refused to defect from the Alliance party on this matter when she defected from the UUP when Tom Elliott refused to attend GAA matches. It’s all turning very nasty in the Allliance now.

  • chrisjones2

    There was no chance of this passing due to the petition. What Alliance did though was shameful. Apparently its right to take flags down as ‘only fair ‘ to both communities but its not OK to vote on a fundamental issue of the rights of LGBT people

    This just shows again why they are utterly unprincipled and useless

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry Mick. For give the cynicism but free votes will come in the DUP just after Robinson is appointed Pope emiritus?

  • Maybe so, but wasn’t this defeated on a straight democratic vote?

  • Chingford Man

    Quite a brave move by Danny Kinahan when he is in a very tight Westminster race, “brave” in the way Sir Humphrey Appleby would have used the expression.

  • Practically_Family

    Or not.

  • Move Along

    Really, getting flags into a Gay Marriage debate?

  • Move Along

    Negative campaign against Unionist parties – really? This would be the same unionist parties who have had to gang together in an attempt to win back the seat which clearly Peter feels he is entitled to? The unionist parties who in this instance have said forget policies, and try to tell us being a unionist trumps everything else?
    Hardly surprising she might push back on that. I doubt showing a bit of fight will cost her too many unionist votes.

  • LordSummerisle

    How about a Swiss model, Referendum on everything. Hang the costs.

  • Sliothar

    Anyone know which SDLP MLAs didn’t vote?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Could not agree more, my Lord, then we might actually find out what the public really thinks on issues beyond the “stopping themuns forever” universal vote catcher. Direct Democracy anyone?

  • Move Along

    I heard from my postman’s brother that Peter Robinson’s stomach wasn’t great (which of course is why he sent his boy out to fight East Belfast for him).
    OK that is rumour mongering, sorry…

  • Move Along

    A party leader that can’t lead his own Health Minister to take up the party position (and not spread homophobic lies – or is that really the DUP party position?)
    Remove the word liberal and the rest of your post could perfectly describe our glorious First Minister and his party.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I think based on her performance tonight she looks as of she is finished.

  • Move Along

    Nope thought she came across as well as any of them, made her points and nailed the electoral pact issue in East Belfast boiling down to a personal problem for Peter Robinson. (UUP have been DUPed there)
    The whole thing was pretty bland with a lot of the usual messages trotted out. Would have liked to hear some debate on health or education positions.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Very negative and Alliance represent nothing as was proven tonight. They through kerosene on the flag issue before bailing out, having had a little respect for her before this left me feeling bemused.

  • Move Along

    Back to flags huh, well whatever’s important to you.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Flags are important and Naomi should have known better as she requires a huge swathe of Unionist votes.

  • Move Along

    Joe, I’m afraid we’ll just disagree on this one, flags are not in the least bit important to me. In my view flags (and more broadly the obsession with unionist / nationalist identities) are a smokescreen preventing us talking about issues that really matter everyday – jobs and the economy, the quality of health provision / crisis in our local NHS, standards in education.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    No, masonmci, a truly democratic vote would have required a referendum, such as is used in Switzerland on issues of such significance. Our crude system of representation permits the election of politicians on manifestos that the voter may only in part agree with, to use the mandate of that vote as they or their party sees fit. This is hardly in any meaningful way the real expression of the people. I’ve quote Emma Goldman before on the representative system, but it bears one more outing:

    ‘The average mind is slow in grasping a truth, but when the most thoroughly organized, centralized institution, maintained at an excessive national expense, has proven a complete social failure, the dullest must begin to question its right to exist. The time is past when we can be content with our social fabric merely because it is “ordained by divine right,” or by the majesty of the law.’

    She also noted that:

    ‘People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take.’

  • Carl Mark

    You see when the source is”I have heard” it is rumour mongering.
    Because something you have heard second hand and (as I challenged you to) don’t produce any facts to back it up then that is mongering.
    Turgons post without evidence to support it can and should be read as part of the demonize Naomi campaign.

  • Carl Mark

    Come one Joe, no matter how well she performed you would claim she was finished.

  • Carl Mark

    Don’t remember any kerosene Joe and neither her or alliance bowed out.
    As a matter of fact in the face of vicious unionist violence and a great deal of personal abuse, they stood their ground and faced down the thugs all the time holding to the principals they were elected on.
    Doesn’t sound like baling out to me!

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I do like her but she is negative to the point of being poisonous.

  • Carl Mark

    Like most of us watching that we must have missed that. Didn’t seem negative to me.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Attacking others and her FB page it littered with attacks on Unionists and Alliance party members who don’t comply with her view.

  • Carl Mark

    oh dear Joe, if that true (and its what politicians do, I am sure if you go onto a DUP politicians page you would see similar statements about Alliance.
    of course there is no comparison between a few post on Facebook and mobs attacking offices and the reams of personal abuse thrown at her and alliance, not to mention the nasty little whispering campaign mounted against her by yourself and other unionists.
    Check out all “A man told me” that she is a dictator, bad tempered, beaten, whatever happened to “do unto others” and “do not bear false witness! this is just rumour mongering and I thought all you Christians were not supposed to do that.

  • Carl Mark

    so is the right to be free from attack from mobs but somehow you seem to have forget about the vicious street violence of unionists. and are you saying that a person should change there views and policy’s because the mob wants it, now that would show a lack of character.