After branding the 10-year delay “a disgrace”, Ms Anna Lo MLA asked the deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, when a draft sexual orientation strategy will be brought to the Executive. Junior Minister Jennifer McCann, answering on behalf of the Department, agreed that the strategy “has been far too long in coming”. The PSNI has reported a recent increase in hate crimes of this nature, putting an onus on us to bring a strategy forward adding that “we need to send a very clear message to the LGBT community that it has the reassurance that the Executive will ensure that its needs and interests will be addressed by government.” Following the recent equal marriage referendum in the Republic of Ireland the Junior Minister McCann also discussed the potential for Northern Ireland to follow saying “we also have to ensure that we are legislating and that anything that we do here is for everyone, that we are progressive and, at any time, we need to challenge homophobia in any other places where that leads to discrimination and everything else against people, particularly our young people.”
Paul Girvan then asked the deputy First Minister for an update on the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement in light of the current difficulties in implementing Welfare Reform. Mr McGuinness explained that party leaders continue to meet weekly in an effort to take the Agreement forward. Plans are being drawn up to deal with matters such as the past, flags, parades and emblems. However the current impasse over welfare reform “has created very serious difficulties, which have implications for the agreement and the future of these institutions.” The Minister is confident that the difficulties can be resolved adding that “what is required now is political will from all parties and both Governments to reach a suitable resolution that protects the most vulnerable in our society and the economic viability of these institutions.”
During Question Time the deputy First Minister also answered queries on the proposed repeal of the Human Rights Act 1998, the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry and the social investment fund. There was also a period of topical questions in which the Minister discussed topics such as the Parades Commission, community relations in South Belfast and the sustainable development strategy.