Northern Ireland

Liam Neeson backs same-sex marriage in NI

Liam Neeson
Image caption Ballymena-born Liam Neeson adds his voice to calls for marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Liam Neeson and Graham Norton have called for the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland ahead of a planned protest in Belfast.

Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody and The Fall star Bronagh Waugh have also added their voices to the campaign.

Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where same-sex marriage is still banned.

The issue is one of the major stumbling blocks in the ongoing negotiations to restore power-sharing at Stormont.

It has been getting a lot of media attention recently after Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes same-sex marriage, entered into a deal with UK Prime Minister Theresa May after she failed to get a majority at Westminster in the general election.

The DUP rejects accusations it is homophobic, insisting it is instead protecting the "traditional" definition of marriage.

'Defying reason'

A number of celebrities, including actor and writer Stephen Fry and singer Neil Hannon of The Divine Comedy, shared their views with Amnesty International, one of the leading members of the Love Equality coalition organising the march in Belfast on Saturday 1 July.

Ballymena-born actor Liam Neeson said: "We've had enough of a history in our society in Northern Ireland of discrimination, mistrust and hatred.

"Yet, we're also an open-hearted, welcoming and terrific people. Let us show that to the world by treating gay, lesbian and transgender peoples as our brothers and sisters and allowing them to marry, if they so wish."

Image caption TV presenter Graham Norton spoke of his affection for Northern Ireland

TV presenter Norton said the historic referendum that approved same-sex marriage in the Irish Republic was a "proud gay day".

"My own mother was from Northern Ireland, so of course I have a huge affection for the place and its people," he said.

"I know it is hugely frustrating for gay people there that it is the last part of these islands still without marriage equality. Especially when there is such overwhelming support for it among the public."

Image caption Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody will not be at the march as the band is recording a new album in the US

County Down-born singer Lightbody added: "Two years ago, I marched with 20,000 fellow Northern Ireland citizens for marriage equality. It was a beautiful day of hope, joy and solidarity and I was so proud to be from 'Norn Iron'.

"Two years on and somehow - defying reason given it's the will of the people - we still do not have marriage equality in Northern Ireland."

Coleraine-born actress Waugh, who will host the parade rally at Belfast City Hall, said: "With the spotlight on Northern Ireland at the minute, now is our chance to really step up our campaigning a gear and give Northern Ireland what it so clearly wants and deserves, finally - equal marriage."

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