Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland woman should have access to abortion in Republic, says McDonald

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald has said she believes woman from Northern Ireland will be able to access abortions in the Republic.

Speaking on the BBC Northern Ireland's Sunday Politics programme, Mrs McDonald said she did not wish for Westminster to legislate on abortion in Northern Ireland, and believed women based in the province would be able to travel south to access abortion services.

"I couldn’t envisage a situation where women from the north would be precluded from accessing services here in the south," she said.

"I think it is very important, not least with the Brexit trauma in the wings that we ensure that services like that are freely available to every woman who calls this island home."

With the result announced on Saturday, voters in the Republic chose to back a change to the Irish Constitution by a margin of around two to one, paving the way for the introduction of legislation for abortion in Ireland.

Her comments followed earlier remarks from Michelle O'Neill that Northern Ireland was becoming a backwater in the absence of an Executive to legislate on language rights, abortion and same-sex marriage.

Speaking on ITV's Peston on Sunday programme, the party's leader in Northern Ireland said it was a "good thing" there was an awareness in England the law in Northern Ireland needed to change, but "ultimately would want to be a legislator that takes the decision".

"In the absence of having institutions we have to find a way to deliver rights," she said.

"Because the north is becoming a backwater. The north is becoming a society where if you want language rights, if you want same-sex marriage, if you want women’s health being dealt with, we are being denied that because of political unionism’s position on a rights’ based society."

Northern Ireland has been without an Executive since January 2017, with numerous rounds of negotiations between the DUP and Sinn Fein failing to restore Stormont.

In the absence of an Executive, key decisions on the governing of Northern Ireland have been taken by the Government, with legislation being introduced on Northern Ireland's budget, regional rates, and the pay of suspended assembly members.

Mrs O'Neill also said she did not believe it would make a "button of difference" if Sinn Fein took its seats in Westminster, and the party made its influence felt in Europe and in the Republic.

"But I believe my mandate is to protect Ireland, my mandate is to protect the wishes of the people in the north of Ireland. I think in terms of the conversation at home now I think it is about the unity referendum," she said.

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