Belfast Telegraph

DUP backs O'Loan on Assembly recall ahead of abortion law change

Nuala O’Loan (Niall Carson/PA)
Nuala O’Loan (Niall Carson/PA)

DUP leader Arlene Foster has backed a call from Baroness Nuala O'Loan for the Secretary of State to recall Stormont.

Baroness O'Loan has written to the Secretary of State urging him to consider the issue before changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws are introduced on Monday.

In a statement the DUP leader said her party would "support this call".

"Our Assembly team met on Monday and agreed to seek a recall of the Assembly," Mrs Foster said.

She said DUP MLAs would return to Stormont "without pre-condition".

"There are serious matters emanating from the NI (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 which should be decisions made in Stormont," the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said.

"We urge other MLAs who oppose the extreme liberalisation of our abortion law, to step outside any party shackles and join us in recalling the Assembly.

"It's time to get Northern Ireland moving again.”

Alliance leader Naomi Long said that the idea was "completely disingenuous".

"The Act requires not just that the Assembly is recalled but that an Executive is formed," she tweeted.

DUP leader Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster (Niall Carson/PA)

"The DUP know that won't happen by Monday, they've put no serious effort into restoring the institutions for months. If they wanted an Executive, they would have."

A UK Government spokesperson said that the Secretary of State did not have the power to recall the Assembly, saying this for its Speaker to decide with the support from the parties.

Former Police Ombudsman O'Loan described the situation as urgent as she believes Stormont should be reconvened to deal with the “difficulty of the situation” with regard to abortion.

Secretary of State Julian Smith told MLAs on Monday that the Stormont Executive must return by October 21 if the parties want to influence the incoming reform of abortion law.

An intensive phase of talks aimed at restoring power sharing will take place later this week and will be the last opportunity for local parties to reach an agreement before Monday.

Should there be no return of local government before that abortion will be decriminalised and same-sex marriages allowed under the law.

UUP leader Robin Swann said that his party had yet to be informed of talks taking place this week.

“I join with many who ask us to get back to work.  I will talk to anyone with the same desire to make Northern Ireland work and I will be in Stormont on Monday morning, or any other time, ready & willing to engage,” Mr Swann said.

A UK Government spokesman said the Secretary of State was "doing everything he can to get Stormont back up and running" and was holding "intensive" talks with the parties this week.

"He has no power or role to recall the Assembly, as that function is conferred on the Speaker for the Assembly. The Assembly can only be recalled by the Speaker, by agreement of the parties," he said. 

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