Jessica Fino 11 Sep 2018 04:55pm

Accountancy firms call for equal marriage in Northern Ireland

Big Four firms PwC and Deloitte have joined 25 other businesses urging the UK government to legislate equal marriage in Northern Ireland

In a rare public endorsement of a politically sensitive cause, the firms signed an open letter as part of the Businesses for Love Equality campaign, expressing their support for the extension of civil marriage in Northern Ireland – where same-sex marriages are still illegal.

The letter states, “As employers we encourage and welcome diversity and inclusion in our workforce and recognise the rights of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) employees to be themselves and to live and work, free from discrimination, prejudice or exclusion.

"As employers, striving to attract the best talent to Northern Ireland and to retain the skilled employees we already have, extending equal civil marriage in Northern Ireland makes sense to us.”

Other signatories of the letter include law firms Pinsent Masons and Baker McKenzie, and banks Citi, Santander, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Northern Ireland’s largest party (by one seat), has been consistently opposed to same-sex marriage legislation.

Today, DUP MLS Jim Wells warned that he would consider abandoning businesses that signed the letter.

“Certainly, I will be reviewing my custom with some of those organisations as a result of what I read this morning.

“I will be opting, where there is a choice, for a company that does not support gay marriage rather than some of those,” Wells reportedly said.

Northern Ireland’s second largest party, Sinn Fein, has previously campaigned in support of marriage equality.

Jackie Henry, office senior partner at Deloitte, said that as a “socially responsible global organisation” operating within Northern Ireland, it was “an easy decision” to add its name to the letter.

“Our support is in line with our core values of diversity, respect and inclusion, and we hope that this campaign will have a positive impact on our people, their families and the wider Northern Irish community. It was quite simply the right thing to do," she said.

Meanwhile, Deloitte’s chief executive David Sproul explained, “Things still aren't always easy for LGBT+ people in the UK and across the world. That's why it's so important to take a stand on a cause like this, which genuinely impacts on the lives of many of our colleagues in Northern Ireland.

“We must provide an inclusive work environment that promotes the development and well-being of all of our people while sending a clear signal to the rest of the world about the type of environment we want to work in.”

Fellow Big Four firm PwC also defended the cause, with Paul Terringtons, Northern Ireland regional chair and head of UK region, saying, "As a major UK business, we recruit talent regardless of gender, ethnicity or orientation. Extending equal civil marriage to Northern Ireland is important to our people and to reinforce our UK-wide commitment to be a welcoming equal-opportunity employer."

Meanwhile, Pinsent Masons argued that there was also a “compelling’ business case for marriage equality in terms of retaining and attracting talent, which made it even more important “to send out a message to international investors that Northern Ireland is a modern, outward looking economy, with a progressive attitude on personal freedoms and rights”.