Council split as gay marriage supported
DUNGANNON council has voted to support gay marriage — but the vote has exposed the deep divisions within some parties about the controversial issue.
Sinn Fein has been tabling motions calling for same-sex marriage at councils across Ireland and, with the exception of Fermanagh, has been successful in each council, despite unionist opposition.
Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council voted to support the measure on Monday after Sinn Fein mayor Phelim Gildernew broke a tied vote by supporting the motion.
The DUP voted against the motion.
However, in further evidence of the split within the SDLP on the issue, three SDLP councillors voted in different ways: Cllr Anthony McGonnell voted for gay marriage, Cllr Pat Daly voted against gay marriage and Cllr Jim Cavanagh abstained.
Ulster Unionist councillors voted against the motion with the exception of Cllr Walter Cuddy, who left the meeting before the vote was taken.
DUP peer and MLA Lord Morrow, who is also a Dungannon councillor, said that the UUP and SDLP needed to explain “exactly where they stand on the redefinition of marriage”.
He said: “The only reason Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council gave its support for the redefinition of marriage is because of the confusion which reigned within both the UUP and SDLP during this debate.
“This was a very close result, which ultimately was only pushed over the line after the mayor used his casting vote.
“Whilst there were SDLP councillors who supported the motion and who abstained, they at least remained within the council chamber to actively demonstrate their views.
“Even with that, however, the result would have been different had all of the Ulster Unionist councillors actually stayed until the end and cast their vote.
“I do not believe that a majority of the community in Northern Ireland support the redefinition of marriage. However, those pressurising for change are attempting to use votes in councils such as Dungannon to portray a different impression.”
An SDLP spokesman said that Lord Morrow’s comments were “disingenuous” as councils have no power to change the legislation which underpins marriage.
He added: “The SDLP is a party of equality and human rights and, above all, a party of democracy.
“As has been stated previously by the party, the issue of equal marriage will be discussed at our party conference as part of our democratic processes and a formal policy decision will be taken at that juncture.”
The UUP said that it believed the issue was one of conscience
A spokesman said: “Perhaps Lord Morrow should set out why he is choosing to dance to Sinn Fein’s tune over a motion on same-sex marriage instead of spending his time persuading Dungannon council to address issues of actual concern to ratepayers, such as job creation, particularly when his party colleague the DETI Minister presides over the worst unemployment figures in recent memory.”
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Weather for Dungannon
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South west
Temperature: 9 C to 15 C
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Wind direction: South west