Northern Ireland goes to the Polls

A snap election has been called for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Stormont election will be held on March 2nd and the new government that is formed afterwards will no doubt again look at the question of same-sex marriage. In recent years the Assembly has voted to allow same-sex marriage by a narrow margin, but the motion has been blocked by the DUP.

Given the scandal that has brought down the 2016 coalition, will there be enough political change at Stormont to allow same-sex marriage to pass at last after the votes are counted in March?

Smaller Stormont

The election has the added twist of being the first under a reduced size Stormont Assembly. The devolved government has until now been elected in 18 constituencies each represented by 6 members, elected by STV. This is now to be reduced from 6 MLAs per seat to 5, taking the Assembly from 108 members to 90, so it is to be expected most parties will lose seats this time around.

Projections based on the detailed election counts in May 2016 suggest the DUP and UUP, which have blocked LGBT rights reforms, would each have won 5 fewer seats. The more LGBT-positive Sinn Fein would also drop 5, and the SDLP 1. Alliance meanwhile keeps all 8 of its seats on the notional results.

A repeat of last year’s voting pattern under the new smaller model Stormont would swing things slightly towards a more LGBT positive agenda after the election. However the DUP’s right to block equality measures through a warped use of “petition of concern” powers would remain in play. The DUP have used this in recent years to prevent progress on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.