Belfast Telegraph

MP Ivan Lewis: Hold referendum on abortion and equal marriage in Northern Ireland

Ivan Lewis (Dave Thompson/PA)
Ivan Lewis (Dave Thompson/PA)

A former shadow Northern Ireland secretary has called for a referendum to be held on abortion and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Former Labour MP Ivan Lewis, who now sits as an independent, made the comments during a debate on the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill in the Commons on Monday.

Labour MP Conor McGinn, who is from Co Armagh, has tabled an amendment on extending equal marriage to bring it into line with the rest of the UK and Ireland, however amendments to the bill have not yet been selected.

Previous attempts to legislate for equal marriage through Stormont have been blocked by the DUP using the petition of concern.

The 1967 Abortion Act which governs the rest of the UK was not extended to Northern Ireland.

A termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Another amendment tabled by Labour MP Stella Creasy is seeking to extend abortion provision to Northern Ireland.

Ivan Lewis said there is "no other credible way forward" than to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage and abortion.

"Equal marriage and abortion generate extremely strong feelings in all societies. But this is especially the case where religion has played such a central role in the sectarian divide," he said.

"I do not support those in this House who want to use the current political stalemate to impose solutions from Westminster.

"However, courageous leadership from the Government would mean using this period to allow the people of Northern Ireland to make their voices heard.

"The Government should bring forward legislation to hold one referendum covering abortion and equal marriage. And they should be consistent. As with Brexit they should commit to introducing necessary legislation, if the people of Northern Ireland vote for change."

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