DUP’s veto on progressive legislation gives Dr Paisley plenty to chuckle about
Votes in institutions do not count unless one is affiliated to one or other ‘community’
Last April saw a repeat performance when the gay marriage issue arose again following the passage of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act at Westminister. A Sinn Féin motion called on the Assembly to follow the British example.
Again, the move was defeated – this time by 53 to 42. Again, it hardly mattered. The DUP had its blocking mechanism in place.
Sinn Féin with 29 seats is one shy of the number needed to trigger a petition of concern.
The party turned to Agnew and Anna Lo of Alliance in March this year to make up the numbers when presented with a motion which would have made it a crime for any private group or institution – the Marie Stopes Clinic was the target – to offer abortion facilities in the North.
The issue having to do with women’s rights, DUP boorishness was at full blast. Jim Wells jeered at Ms Lo for signing the petition when, as he pointed out, Alliance would have no influence when it came to the Assembly vote.
“The Alliance Party votes will count for nothing in an hour’s time, because, when a petition of concern is tabled, the votes from the middle, non-aligned parties do not count. It is entirely a headcount of Nationalists and Unionists.”
Which summed up more honestly than we are used to a couple of key aspects of the Belfast Agreement – that the operation of the institutions depends on political allegiances continuing to be constructed solely or mainly around the idea of communal identity, and that the price you pay for refusing to designate yourself a representative of one or other of “the two communities” is that when it comes to a crunch your vote counts for nothing.
De Valera is said to have said that “Labour must wait” – that it was only when national independence had been achieved and consolidated that the specific interests of the working class could come centre stage. In the North today, it’s gays and women who must wait.
No gay equality, no right to choose, and a set-up that gives his party special powers. What’s not for Paisley to like? Small wonder he took to the chuckling.