A senior adviser on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is being sought by the UK Government – despite Westminster insisting the issue is a devolved matter.
Politicians at Stormont have rejected same-sex marriage five times in recent years, but they are under pressure to change their stance.
Yesterday, Karen Bradley, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said she was not seeking to impose the redefinition of marriage.
The civil service “Rights and Equality” post, which also covers abortion, was uncovered by the Belfast News Letter.
Northern Ireland currently has the strongest protections for women and unborn children in the UK.
Abortion is only allowed to preserve the life of the mother, a position upheld by MLAs in 2016.
In the advert for Senior Policy Advisers, applicants are told they would “lead on some of the department’s key policy priorities”.
They will be tasked with “driving forward the Government’s approach to issues around equal marriage, abortion and human rights”.
The role involves “frequent contact with senior officials and Ministers”.
However, the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) claim the role is merely to reply to correspondence on “sensitive issues”, and stated: “We have no plans to intervene in these areas of devolved competence”.
LGBT campaign group The Rainbow Project welcomed the move, and said the Westminster Government had a duty to ‘undo marriage discrimination’.
Callum Webster, The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer said: “Far from acting with the impartiality and neutrality the public might rightly expect from the NIO, it is looking to actively promote abortion and the redefinition of marriage in Northern Ireland.
“The current definition of marriage in Northern Ireland has served society well for generations.
“Approximately 100,000 people are alive in the Province today because we have not introduced liberal abortion laws.
“It seems a travesty that the Government should be gearing up to use unelected taxpayer-funded civil servants to attempt to push through these changes against the will of our elected politicians and many of our ordinary citizens.”
Yesterday, Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley told Belfast radio station U105, “I voted for Equal Marriage to apply in England and Wales.”
“It will be a matter for the elected politicians in Northern Ireland to make a decision about equal marriage. That’s for them to decide.”
She added that it was not for her to “impose” it on people in Northern Ireland.