Belfast Telegraph

DUP leader backs Baroness O’Loan’s call for return of NI Assembly

Her call comes just days before abortion is due to be decriminalised in Northern Ireland

DUP leader Arlene Foster has backed a call by Baroness O’Loan to have the Northern Ireland Assembly recalled. (Brian Lawless/PA)
DUP leader Arlene Foster has backed a call by Baroness O’Loan to have the Northern Ireland Assembly recalled. (Brian Lawless/PA)

By Rebecca Black, PA

The DUP leader has backed a call by Baroness O’Loan for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It comes just days before abortion is due to be decriminalised in the region following legislation passed by Westminster.

The Assembly has been collapsed for over 1,000 days following the break down in relations between leading parties the DUP and Sinn Fein.

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Baroness Nuala O’Loan has urged Secretary of State Julian Smith to recall the Assembly before a change to the laws around abortion are introduced (Archive/PA)

The move to decriminalise abortion will only be halted if the Stormont executive is restored by October 21, a prospect that appears remote given the depth of the rift between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Baroness O’Loan has written a letter to the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith urging him to recall the Assembly before the change to abortion laws comes in next week.

The peer described the situation in her letter as “unprecedented”.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has supported Baroness O’Loan’s call.

“Our Assembly team met on Monday and agreed to seek a recall of the Assembly,” she said.

“Our MLAs will return to the chamber without pre-condition.

“There are serious matters emanating from the NI (Executive Formation etc) Act 2019 which should be decisions made in Stormont.

“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.”

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A silent demonstration was held earlier this year at Stormont over the planned liberalisation of abortion laws in Northern Ireland. (Rebecca Black/PA)

One of the issues at the heart of the 1,000 day impasse is the Sinn Fein demand for the introduction of an Irish Language Act – a law the DUP has resisted.

If abortion is decriminalised, the Government will take on responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to abortions in the region by next April.

Anti-abortion activists have urged Stormont politicians to set aside their differences and get back into government to stop the moves to liberalise the abortion laws.

Pro-choice campaigners have welcomed the Westminster intervention to overhaul the region’s strict abortion regime.

Baroness O’Loan described her concerns around the law change in her letter to Mr Smith.

“Despite the recent publication of guidelines there is an enormous lack of clarity about the situation which will prevail between October 22 and the introduction of new regulations,” she wrote.

“There are significant legal uncertainties pursuant to the publication of those guidelines, and in the absence of any legal certainty which might derive from properly articulated legislation, they give rise to great concern for the safety of mothers and their unborn babies, and about the absence of any clear statement of the legal rights and obligations of those who might be affected by the guidelines.”

PA

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