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BBC Question Time: Irish comedian Grainne Maguire attacks Northern Ireland’s ‘state sanctioned homophobia’

'This is not something you want Northern Ireland to be famous for' 

Heather Saul
Friday 22 January 2016 12:30 GMT
(Getty Images )

An Irish comedian has attacked Northern Ireland’s “state-sanctioned homophobia” for its ban on same-sex marriage.

Gráinne Maguire appeared as a panellist on the BBC’s Question Time, alongside Theresa Villiers, the Conservative Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Labour Peer Peter Hain, Nigel Dodds MP, and Sinn Fein national chairman Declan Kearney, in Belfast on Thursday evening.

Same-sex marriage is legal everywhere in the UK except Northern Ireland. In May, Ireland became the first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote after a landmark referendum. But same-marriage is still illegal in Northern Ireland despite its assembly voting in favour of marriage same-sex marriage equality in November.

Grainne Maguire

An audience member began the debate on the issue with the question, “Isn’t it about time Northern Ireland moved with the times and legalised gay marriage?” prompting a round of applause from the audience.

“I just can’t believe we’re still having this discussion,” Maguire began. “Yesterday in Westminster, Tory MPs were discussing their use of poppers. Yet in Northern Ireland, we still have state-sanctioned homophobia. I think it’s absolutely crazy.”

“I am a proud Irish person,” she continued, “but I have to think if you’re being out-liberalled by the Republic of Ireland on a social issue, you’re gonna have something to worry about."

Maguire urged Northern Ireland not to let its legacy become one of intolerance.

“This is not something you want Northern Ireland to be famous for - you don’t wanna say: ‘Visit Northern Ireland, we’ve got Titanic, we’ve got amazing art and culture - and, we’re horrible to gay people.' It’s ridiculous.“

But Dodds insisted the decision should be made for the people by the assembly instead of put to a referendum - an opinion that was met with silence from the audience.

"The fundamental thing is this: Northern Ireland is moving forward,” he countered. “Most people in Northern Ireland are actually wanting to get on the peace process, building the economy - moving Northern Ireland forward. It is not the day-to-day subject people talk about.”

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