A Sinn Féin victory in Northern Ireland could spell much-needed change for the LGBTQ+ community

For the first time ever, Sinn Féin is projected to become the biggest party at Stormont, meaning the DUP could lose the first minister post.

If those projections come to pass, it would be a history-making moment in Northern Ireland. If Sinn Féin emerges as the country’s biggest party, it will be the first time in a century that a nationalist party has had majority support.

 

In simple terms, that means Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill will take the first minister post for the first time. Notably, it would also mean that Northern Ireland would have its first ever pro-LGBTQ+ first minister.

The DUP’s decline probably doesn’t have much to do with the party’s staunch opposition to LGBTQ+ rights – it’s likely more to do with the Northern Irish protocol and Brexit – but the result could still have a positive impact on queer people.

The DUP has blocked progress on LGBTQ+ rights in Northern Ireland

 

Ever since it was founded by Ian Paisley in 1971, the DUP has been fiercely opposed to any advancement in LGBTQ+ rights. That started with Paisley’s “Save Ulster from Sodomy” campaign in the 1970s, which argued that homosexuality should continue to be criminalized because the Bible said it was a sin.

In the decades since, the DUP has done little to win support from the LGBTQ+ community. Numerous MLAs and MPs have come under fire for making barbed comments about queer people – Ian Paisley Jr said in 2005 that he was “repulsed” by homosexuality, while Sammy Wilson said people with AIDS were sick because of their “lifestyle choices”.

In Stormont, the DUP has done everything in its power to stop LGBTQ+ people from winning equality. The party repeatedly blocked same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland using a mechanism agreed upon under the Good Friday Agreement known as the “petition of concern”. Same-sex marriage eventually came to Northern Ireland when power sharing collapsed, paving the way for Westminster to vote in its favor instead – but that victory still didn’t lead to the DUP abandoning its anti-LGBTQ+ agenda.

There was a small glimmer of hope that the DUP could be open to change in 2021 when Paula Bradley, the DUP’s deputy leader, apologized for past remarks made by her party colleagues about LGBTQ+ people.

 
Paula Bradley DUP
DUP deputy leader Paula Bradley apologised for comments made by her party colleagues about the LGBT+ community. (PAUL FAITH/AFP via Getty)

Speaking at a PinkNews reception, Bradley admitted that some of the comments made by DUP representatives had been “absolutely atrocious” and that they had “fed into the hatred” endured by LGBTQ+ people.

The apology was warmly welcomed by LGBTQ+ campaigners, but the community has little reason to believe that the DUP has any intention of seriously reckoning with its past and changing the course of its future. Many of the party’s representatives continue to speak out against advancements in LGBTQ+ rights, with conversion therapy becoming a sticking point for some MLAs and MPs.

 

Sinn Féin has adapted – and its leaders are strong supporters of LGBTQ+ rights

While the DUP continues to linger in the past, Sinn Féin has been quick to adapt when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights. The party, which has been in operation for more than a century, has gradually moved towards strong support for the LGBTQ+ community.

In 2012, Sinn Féin formally supported same-sex marriage and, in 2015, it was the only party in Northern Ireland to support for trans people in its party manifesto.

 
 

In 2021, Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald told the PinkNews Belfast Summer Reception that trans people deserve proper healthcare all across the island of Ireland. She also used her platform to criticise the UK’s Gender Recognition Act (GRA), saying it “others people in a way that is cruel”.

That’s not to say Sinn Féin is totally in the clear when it comes to LGBTQ+ rights – in 2020, there was some controversy in the Republic of Ireland when it emerged that elected representative Brian Stanley had tweeted “insensitive” remarks about Leo Varadkar, who is gay.

One Sinn Féin member, Iósaf Ó Muirí, told the Belfast Telegraph at the time that he had left the party because it had “failed to take robust action on racism, homophobia and bigotry”.

Still, the prospect of a Sinn Féin first minister is a much better one for LGBTQ+ people. Sinn Féin is much more likely to support the community and to aid and assist in championing advancements in LGBTQ+ rights.

That’s important because there is still a great deal of work to be done in Northern Ireland to make life better for LGBTQ+ people. Trans healthcare is in a state of disarray in the region, and conversion therapy is still being practiced legally – although the Stormont government has promised to outlaw the practice and legislation is currently being drafted.

It’s not yet entirely clear just how significant a Sinn Féin victory would be for Northern Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community, but at the very least, it would show queer people that they have a leader who supports their right to equality.

4 thoughts on “A Sinn Féin victory in Northern Ireland could spell much-needed change for the LGBTQ+ community

  1. As much as this looks encouraging, speaking as a Brit, be wary of a simple result in a Northern Irish Election, they have a very, very complex system there. (To be fare it is to block the return to Communal Violence)
    The DUP is blocking moving on, not because of LGBT+ issues but over the Brexit mess.
    The complexities of NI politics can make Quantum Physics seem but a simple case of maths.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello deteremineddespitewp. I would love your opinion on how Brexit is working out in your country? Do you think people will get tired of it and return to the EU? What about the break up of the UK? What was the driving force behind Brexit? Hugs

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That Scottie is the closest the UK’s political temperature got to the heat in the USA generated by Gun Control.
        Families and relationships split and in an odd parallel with the Republicans in 2020 there still is a strident anti-Brexit movement, despite the majority of folk voting for it.
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_to_Brexit

        The opinion for Pro-Brexit was that it gave the UK back its freedom to act as an independent nation. Anti-Brexit claimed it was racist based and was stuck in a mindset of The British Empire.
        The Economic arguments are so arcane that only Economists (who like this sort of think) can truly discuss them with any degree of competency.
        There is still much confusion over the separation and depending on whether you are pro- or anti- the news is good or bad.

        Basically though Covid and the Russian- Ukrainian war have muddied the waters to such a degree the only thing which can be certain of is the problem with Ulster / Norther Ireland. Officially there is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which the Unionist Parties (those wishing to keep ties with the UK) are not happy with
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Protocol

        I voted against Brexit for the reason I felt an united Europe both economically and politically was vital to the well-being of the UK. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has proven this to be so.

        Overall, though how things will eventually work out cannot truly be predicted. I assume judging by other factors we will stay out of the EU for this decade. What happens after that will rely on a myriad of factors on the World Stage and whether the UK will separate in four federated states of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
        If there was a return, me being 70 I do not think it would be fully resolved in my lifetime. (unless I get a good break)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hello Roger. Thank you for the information. I admit I am a supporter of large unions such as the EU where people and goods can move freely across border lines. For me the idea that imaginary lines on a map should define us is stupid. I have often thought if the North American countries could ever manage to work out a deal like that all the issue we have with immigration and economic between the countries would greatly improve. But there are people who are worried they are losing the power of their shrinking minorities now that would just scream louder that they are being replaced. Sadly the biggest thing holding up such a union is racism. Hugs

          Like

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