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Abortion And Marriage Equality To Be Legalised In Northern Ireland Tonight

Abortion And Marriage Equality To Be Legalised In Northern Ireland Tonight

In the course of the jubilation over the last number of years with Ireland's landmark votes to legalise both same-sex marriage and abortion, it was often overlooked that those north of the border were living in something of a state of limbo

In the rest of the United Kingdom, legislation was passed providing access to abortion on a range of grounds up to 28 weeks in 1967. Same-sex marriage was legalised by an act of government in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014. However, Northern Ireland has not kept step with these developments. Same-sex marriage has yet to be approved and abortion is only allowed for in limited circumstanes such as when the life of the mother is in danger.

Given that the Northern Irish parliament has not been in session since early 2017 following a deadlock brought about by a domestic fuel scandal, Westminster had passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act 2019. This Act mandates for some degree of governance of Northern Ireland to be allocated to Westminster while Northern Ireland remains without a sitting government. As part of this act, Northern Ireland's laws regarding abortion and same-sex marriage are to be brought in line with the rest of the UK.

However, the DUP, Northern Ireland's primary conservative unionist party - who are currently in a position of some authority in Westminster as their support of the Conservative Party allows the Conservatives to hold a working majority - are deeply opposed to these changes. As such they have said that they will enter Stormont today with the intention of trying to form a functioning government - which they've been without for 1006 days - in order to block these changes coming into effect.

Thus far however, no other Northern Irish party have intimated that they will join the DUP in re-entering Stormont. As such, they will be unable to form a functioning government to be able to block this act coming into effect at 12.01am on Tuesday.

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Should they fail to block this act, then marriage equality will be extended to Northern Ireland from January 2020 and Westminster will seek to have abortion services extended to Northern Ireland after a five-month consultation period.

Given that Northern Ireland have had some of the most restrictive and regressive social policies in Northern Europe for a long time it is a welcome sight to see legislation being brought in to help extend rights enjoyed by so many other to its citizens.

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Rory McNab

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