A referendum on marriage equality should be held to solve the political impasse in Northern Ireland, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has suggested.
Political parties in Northern Ireland are set to enter a new round of talks next week in a bid to break the deadlock, however same-sex marriage which Sinn Féin see as a red line issue remains a thorny and unresolved matter with the DUP vehemently opposed to it.
Sinn Féin, the DUP and the other smaller parties are now under renewed pressure to restore the Assembly, which has not sat since 2017, in the wake of the murder of Lyra McKee.
Speaking at Fianna Fáil’s annual Easter Rising Commemoration at Arbour Hill, Mr Martin put forward his alternative idea of an immediate commitment to a referendum on marriage equality which he said would “break the logjam”.
“That is one option that could be used to move forward.”
Mr Martin added that his party agrees with the SDLP proposition that the petition of concern be suspended as a basis for the immediate restoration of the assembly and the executive.
“I think the central trueism that parliaments exist for people to go to to solve problems, not places where you don’t go to until problems are solved in advance. An alternative idea, if this would break the logjam, would be an immediate commitment to a referendum on marriage equality which might be a way to deal with the issue. That is one option that could be used to move forward,” he said.
Sinn Féin’s negotiating team are due to meet today ahead of the upcoming talks, but party president Mary Lou McDonald has remained firm on their demands around marriage equality and an Irish Language Act.
It is now over two years since the late Martin McGuinness resigned from government which triggered the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Mr Martin said: “In my view, the institutions should never have been collapsed over the heating scandal. I think when scandals happen in any political system or within any Government, you deal with the scandal, you have the inquiry but you don’t collapse parliament and I think that was a fundamental mistake that was made.
“That said, the murder of Lyra McKee, the people who carried that out are the ones who are solely responsible. Notwithstanding the political vacuum, there is no excuse for that type of murder.
“There is an urgent need for the restoration of politics in Northern Ireland and of the parliament and executive so that people have a voice on issues from education to housing to health and I know many decisions have been deferred in the absence of a parliament,” he said.