Bombs - political and real
THIS week saw the House of Commons vote to bomb Syria in an attempt to halt ISIL’s continued presence in their self-declared ‘Caliphate’ straddling Iraq and Syria.
The RAF was already in action over Iraq and mounting reconnaissance missions over Syria – but its significance was for both the Conservative government and the new leadership of the Labour Party, leaving Northern Ireland’s MPs as a side show.
Our wee country wasn’t to be outdone, however, and as NI MPs voted on whether to send physical bombs to Syria, a political one exploded much closer to home.
The High Court ruling that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws are in breach of human rights has brought an age-old dividing line back into the local spotlight.
And as well as drawing whoops of joy from the likes of Amnesty International and scowls from the pro-life lobby, it has also left MLAs and Ministers with a headache.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton has stuck with existing guidelines that do not have fatal foetal abnormalities as a justification for abortion; nor do sexual crimes or incest qualify.
At the same time, Justice Minister David Ford is once again looking at his proposals, which – while not too dissimilar from the health guidelines – do have some ‘wriggle’ room for medical professionals.
Given the mélange of religious persuasions in the Executive and the staunch differences in party position throughout the Assembly, nothing is likely to be settled without a fist fight or two.
How bloody this latest instalment of the Rumble in the Jungle will be remains to be seen, but one things for sure: when it comes to swinging digs over social issues, Ali and Foreman aint got nothing on our MLAs!
Away from the controversy, what we’ve learnt over the past few weeks is that, when they’re not fighting amongst themselves, our reps can actually get a lot done.
Indeed, this coming week will see upwards of seven pieces of legislation proceed through their various stages at Stormont, addressing such important issues as organ donation, rural needs, and bullying in schools.
Maybe our MLAs are in a panic to push things through because of the weeks of crisis talks throughout the autumn, but at least it’s nice to see they’re doing something – even if they can’t agree on issues like abortion or military action in distant lands.