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Press Release: Peers blast NI abortion regulations as 'breach of Belfast Agreement' and 'threat to the union'

28 April 2021
Lord Morrow

DUP Peer Lord Morrow

Controversial regulations handing new powers to the Secretary of State (SoS) for Northern Ireland to override NI legislators have been rubber stamped by Peers.

This afternoon, Peers backed the Abortion (Northern Ireland) Regulations 2021. A series of amendments by pro-life parliamentarians were rejected. In a Commons vote yesterday, MPs backed the regulations by a margin of 431-89.

The regulations allow the SoS to compel the provision of abortion services in NI. The NI Executive decided not to commission abortion services when the Assembly reconvened last year, following a period of dissolution.

In the debate this afternoon, several Peers accused the UK Government of overstepping its bounds by imposing changes on health matters which are in the gift of the NI Assembly.

DUP Peer Lord Morrow said:

“In a context where the existence of life affirming laws is a long term NI distinctive, backed by its representatives on 9 July 2019, and where there is no justification for sweeping this aside either on the basis of international obligations nor the rulings of the Supreme Court, one has to confront a harsh reality.

The only reason why we are where we are today, is that Parliament decided to take the risk of disrespecting a Northern Ireland tradition because doing so was the greater priority to Members of Parliament than the continuation of the union.

Now that the Assembly has been restored and the international obligations argument for overruling Northern Ireland has been shown to be without foundation, the Government should withdraw these regulations".

Conservative Peer Baroness Eaton said:

"My Lords, as a Conservative and Unionist, I am acutely aware that the maintenance or our union does not depend on the imposition of uniformity. If our union is to survive, we must respect the key distinctives between the different parts of the union.

Northern Ireland’s long tradition of life affirming laws may not be to everyone’s liking but we must acknowledge that they exist not because of a stunted view of human rights but because of a wider vision in which the rights of both the mother and the unborn have to be taken into account.

I am deeply concerned that rather than respecting the traditions of Northern Ireland some representatives of other parts of the union have actively sought to disinherit Northern Ireland from her traditions. We simply can’t do that if we want our union to survive."

On Tuesday, during a debate in the House of Commons, Conservative backbencher Miriam Cates MP also strongly opposed the move.

Ms Cates commented:

“Abortion is a devolved issue, and the only legal or moral basis for the 2019 intervention by the UK Government was that there was no sitting Northern Ireland Assembly at that time. As we are all aware, that is no longer the case, and the Assembly has shown itself to be perfectly competent in developing its own legislation.

There is no longer any justification for the UK Government to enforce the regulations. Pressing ahead, as we are doing today, is a breach of the Belfast agreement and weakens the trust and respect upon which devolution is founded…. The Northern Ireland Assembly opposes the regulations. When the people of Northern Ireland were consulted on the regulations last year, 80% rejected them”.

CARE CEO Nola Leach said:

“Whatever we think about abortion itself, there is simply no democratic case for this move by the UK Government. It is a direct assault on the devolution settlement, and it risks compounding existing constitutional tensions.

Ministers would never meddle in the affairs of the Scottish or Welsh Parliaments in this way. There would be outrage and justifiably so. So why do they feel entitled to with NI?

The UK Government must allow NI’s democratically elected politicians to take decisions on behalf of her citizens.”


Notes for Editors:

CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.

For interview requests or more information please contact Jamie Gillies: // 07384467819

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