Northern Ireland

Same sex marriage: Finance minister asks officials to work on draft bill

Mairtin O'Muilleoir said he feels legislation can be passed during this assembly term Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he feels legislation can be passed during this assembly term

Northern Ireland's finance minister has asked his officials to work on a draft bill to introduce same sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

In a written answer to Alliance's Stewart Dickson, Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said he wants the assembly to legislate on the matter as soon as possible.

Mr Ó Muilleoir acknowledged he has "a little way to go" in securing the necessary support from other MLAs.

But he said he feels legislation can be passed during this assembly term.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is not legal.

Previously, the Democratic Unionist Party has used cross-community 'petitions of concern' to veto motions in favour of same sex marriage.

In its last manifesto, the DUP said it had "stood by its commitment to family values and marriage and will continue to do so".

On Wednesday, Mr Ó Muilleoir also expressed a belief that MLAs are likely to choose to legislate rather than "be forced to legislate on foot of an adverse judgment" in the courts.

He said he wants his officials to "do the groundwork now" so that his department - which has responsibility for the registration of marriages - is "able to move swiftly towards introduction".

Besides preparing a draft bill, the finance minister has asked his officials to initiate discussions with other departments, given that a civil marriage equality bill may touch on matters not within his remit.

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