Northern Ireland

Same-sex marriage: Thousands of gay rights campaigners march in Belfast

The demonstration has been organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project
Image caption The demonstration has been organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project

Thousands of people have attended a march in Belfast, calling for the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples in Northern Ireland.

The march began at Writer's Square and moved towards Belfast City Hall, where a rally was held.

The organisers said Northern Ireland is "out on a limb" as the only part of the UK and Ireland not to change its laws.

The Northern Ireland Assembly has debated the issue four times, and each time MLAs rejected same-sex marriage.

'Left behind'

Saturday's demonstration was organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), Amnesty International and the Rainbow Project.

Patrick Corrigan, Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director, was among those who addressed the rally.

He said it was "simply unacceptable for the state to discriminate against people on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity".

"Amnesty International believes that states should end discrimination on this basis and instead ensure that all families are equally protected before the law," he said.

"That's why we are on the march today and why we will walk every step of the way with you and the LGBTI community, and why we will not stop until every one of us can enjoy the same rights and recognition before the law."

The singer and actress Bronagh Gallagher performed at the event, which was attended by a number of Northern Ireland politicians. The Snow Patrol singer Gary Lightbody was also present.

In a statement, the ICTU said: "In 2005, history was made when Northern Ireland became the first place in the UK to hold a civil partnership.

Image caption Speakers at the rally calling for the introduction of civil marriage for same-sex couples said they were demanding change
Image caption The march began at Writer's Square and headed to Belfast City Hall

"Ten years later, with every other part of these islands recognising marriage equality, citizens in Northern Ireland have effectively been left behind."

The ICTU added that its members had "played a leading role in campaigning for a Yes vote in the marriage equality referendum in the Republic of Ireland".

Last month, more than 62% of the electorate in the Republic of Ireland voted to legalise same-sex marriage.

Image caption The novelist Glenn Patterson was among those who spoke at the rally

It was the first country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage by a referendum.

Renowned Northern Ireland novelist Glenn Patterson also spoke at the rally on Saturday and alluding to the symbolism of the DeLorean car currently situated in the grounds of City Hall, asked the crowd to permit him a 'Back to the Future' moment.

"We will never forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet skies of the Irish Republic," he said.

"We are going to bring them here."

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