Belfast Telegraph

Abortion and same-sex marriage amendments added to Northern Ireland Bill

Plus move to appoint mediator to resolve power-sharing impasse

By Michael Shiels McNamee

Amendments which would legalise abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland have been added to a Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation and Exercise of Functions) Bill was introduced earlier this month by Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley.

The purpose of the Bill was to push forward plans to restore the power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland, clarifying the role of civil servants.

It also is aimed at providing time and space for political parties to agree a return to a power-sharing government.

After its first reading in the House of Commons the Bill received an amendment from Labour MPs Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn which would have repealed a Victorian law criminalising abortion in Northern Ireland and a statutory order banning marriage between people of the same sex.

This amendment was withdrawn, with a less-radical amendment added calling for Karen Bradley to issue guidance to senior officers in Stormont departments on how to exercise their functions in relation to the human rights of Northern Ireland's public.

On Monday, Lord Andrew Adonis announced he had tabled amendments to the Bill for abortion and same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland.

He also tabled amendments for a mediator to be appointed to the power-sharing restoration talks, in the role of George Mitchell, and for a special sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly to take place in November to debate and vote on Brexit.

Another amendment tabled by Lord Adonis calls for a people's vote in November on Brexit, regardless of whether the Assembly is sitting for any other purpose.

The Bill will go through its second reading in front of the House of Lords on Tuesday, having already passed through the House of Commons.

An prominent remainer, Lord Adonis has previously come to attention for his comments on the situation in Northern Ireland, and criticism of the DUP.

Last month the outspoken peer called Brexit a "shortcut to a united Ireland, thanks to the DUP," and in July claimed the Union flag was a "flag of convenience" for the party.

Separately, the Abortion Bill - which would repeal sections of the Victoria-era Offences Against the Person Act which criminalise abortion in Northern Ireland - is set to have its second reading in front of the House of Commons next month.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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