UK Government warned against further abortion imposition in NIAbortion
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has warned the UK Government not to order the provision of abortion services in Northern Ireland amidst a tense standoff on the issue.
Abortion was legalised in NI in 2019 via a cynical amendment to Westminster legislation. However, the now-reconvened NI Executive has not chosen to order services to be commissioned across the country.
Health Minister Robin Swann has said he cannot centrally commission services without the approval of the wider five-party coalition Executive, insisting that it is his legal responsibility to refer controversial or significant decisions to the other Ministers.
For such a proposal to secure Executive approval, the two main parties – the DUP and Sinn Fein – must both agree to it. The DUP has blocked consideration of the commissioning issue due to its pro-life stance, and the views of many constituents on the issue.
Over the past few weeks, pro-abortion voices in the UK Parliament have asked the UK Government to go over the head of the NI Executive and impose the commissioning of abortion services on NI, flagrantly disregarding the devolution settlement.
The UK Government signalled today that it will be setting out its next steps on the issue towards the end of this week. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis is expected to side with pro-abortion groups.
This morning, DUP Leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson warned Mr Lewis that to do so would damage the credibility of power sharing. He told Radio Ulster:
“I think that the Secretary of State in those circumstances should enable or allow the Executive to get on with the work that it has been elected to do and to consider these most sensitive of issues.
“I just don’t think that it helps devolution and the credibility of our political institutions when the Westminster Government is constantly going over our heads and imposing things that are properly a matter for our local electoral representatives to take decisions on.”
The DUP leader said it is important for locally elected ministers to try to find consensus on the issue.
“The Executive is supposed to operate on a consensus basis and therefore, when it comes to even the most sensitive of issues, there’s a need to try and get consensus,” he said.