Newry.ie

Around a hundred people gathered in the centre of Newry last night to mark the fact that from midnight the provision of same-sex marriage was be extended to the north. It will take to January 2020 for legislation to be put forward with the first weddings expected in February 2020.

Members of the local LGBT community together with  the Chairman of Newry, Mourne and Down Council, Cllr Charlie Casey, political representatives, family, friends and well-wishers all turned out on the chilly October night to acknowledge that Newry's gay community was now equal in the eyes of the law and that if they wished they could get married to the person they love just like everyone else.Or as Bernardine Quinn from Dundalk Outcomers quipped (after passing on her congratulations!) "Welcome to the world of trying to avoid getting married"

The Law

Celebrating the introduction of marriage equality at Midnight on Monday in Marcus Square, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Celebrating the introduction of marriage equality at Midnight on Monday in Marcus Square, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Camlough native Conor McGinn, now an MP for St Helens North proposed and obtained an ammendment to the drearily named Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill  in the House of Commons on 9 July 2019, requiring the NI Secretary of State no later than (yesterday) 21 October to make regulations to change the law relating to marriage in Northern Ireland to provide that marriage between same-sex couples is lawful. The ammendment stated that the formation of a NI Executive could cease the effect of the bill, but an attempt by the DUP yesterday to form an executive failed.

 Legislation had been introduced locally in December 2006 allowing same-sex couples to form a Civil Partnership, but it wasn't called Marriage and  many have been campaigning for many years to amend this.

Gathering in Marcus Square, Newry at Midnight on Monday night to celebrate the introduction of marriage equality. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gathering in Marcus Square, Newry at Midnight on Monday night to celebrate the introduction of marriage equality. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Rory Rafferty, Chairman, Newry Rainbow Community said "After decades of tireless campaigning, victory for those who believe in equality lies just around the corner. The first same sex marriages should be taking place in the region on Valentine's Day next year (February 14th 2020).

Gathering in Marcus Square, Newry at Midnight on Monday night to celebrate the introduction of marriage equality. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Gathering in Marcus Square, Newry at Midnight on Monday night to celebrate the introduction of marriage equality. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

"Every letter, every tweet, every marcher on the street, every parent who stood up for a child, every friend who showed acceptance, every rainbow flag painted on a face, every flamboyant display at Pride across the UK & Ireland, every single activist, made this happen. The exhaustive campaigning by grassroots activists changed public opinion long before today as poll after poll suggests support for equal marriage as high as 70%”

“It is indeed a momentous day but a bittersweet one in that it required Westminster to legislate on behalf of our community after the DUP blocked Marriage Equality proposals in Stormont on 5 separate occasions“

Mr Rafferty concluded “2019 has been a whirlwind year for the LGBTQI+ community here with Stonewall50, International UK & Ireland Pride in Newry 2019 and now the culmination of many years of campaigning with the long overdue introduction of Marriage Equality. There is still so much more to achieve such as the introduction of long awaited gender and sexual orientation strategies, improvements in education as well as much needed improvements to trans healthcare”

Celebrating the introduction of marriage equality at Midnight on Monday in Marcus Square, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Celebrating the introduction of marriage equality at Midnight on Monday in Marcus Square, Newry. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Celebrations

As the countdown to midnight arrived the jubilant crowd at Marcus Square in Newry shouted and cheered, with a few cracking open the champagne in celebration. Some present had got tired of waiting for Marriage to arrive for them locally and had crossed the border to get married!

Speaking at the event Damian McShane said "The campaign wasn't about any group or any person or anything. It was about all of us, our whole community accepting each other as we are and that's where we are at and we've won that but there's still lots to go in the future"

Cllr Gary Stokes spoke of the 1950's, 1960's when people were jailed for their sexuality and were put through unspeakable medical acts. "Today thankfully those days are gone, this part of Ireland has now joined the rest of the world. Thank God for that."

Visitors to Marcus Square in Newry to mark the introduction of Same Sex Marriage. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie
Visitors to Marcus Square in Newry to mark the introduction of Same Sex Marriage. Photograph: Columba O'Hare/ Newry.ie

Cllr Liz Kimmins congratulated everyone on their campaigning "Each one has campaigned very very hard for this day to come. I think it's a very historic occasion, I wish everybody well - I'm looking forward to all the hens and stags and weddings. Enjoy the celebrations."

Cllr Gavin Malone also spoke of his delight at being present.

Helena Young added  "I'm absolutely thrilled to be here with my friends to celebrate this momentous occasion and I'm expecting some sort of a proposal tonight - Is anyone going to get down on one knee."

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