Belfast Telegraph

British-Irish body 'has no say on terminations'

By Victoria Leonard

Calls for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) to discuss our abortion law at a meeting in London today have been slammed as "constitutionally inappropriate" by a group of politicians.

The representatives, including DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MLA Carla Lockhart, Baroness Nuala O'Loan and Irish Senator Ronan Mullen, criticised calls made in a letter in last weekend's Sunday Times calling for abortion law reform. The letter, organised by Labour MP Stella Creasy was signed by more than 170 politicians including Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill, SDLP leader Colum Eastwood and Alliance leader Naomi Long.

While abortion is a devolved issue, the letter suggested it should be looked at by the BIIGC, which deals with non-devolved issues relating to Northern Ireland and areas of mutual interest to the British and Irish Governments. In a response to Prime Minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, six politicians from Northern Ireland, the group said the BIIGC had "no function" to consider the matter.

They added: "As you know the remit of the BIIGC is to consider non-devolved issues related to Northern Ireland and questions of mutual concern between the British and Irish Governments. This means that abortion is not within the scope of the BIIGC because abortion law and policy is devolved fully to the Assembly.

"It is alarming to see politicians so ready to impose their views on a place that most of them do not represent (and without regard to the wider political ramifications), a fact that is highlighted by their complete failure to understand the basic ground rule of the BIIGC as it relates to the governance of Northern Ireland.

"We would be better served if colleagues demonstrated the same passion for understanding the governance of Northern Ireland as they did for looking for constitutionally inappropriate opportunities to foist their opinions on it."

Belfast Telegraph

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