Belfast Telegraph

Presbyterian Church slams politicians for failing to act over abortion and same sex marriage law changes

Rev Dr William Henry
Rev Dr William Henry
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The Presbyterian Church has slammed Assembly Members for their failure to halt changes to the abortion law and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Legislation introduced in Westminster came into effect at midnight after politicians failed to form a power-sharing government at Stormont after nearly three years.

Moderator the Rt Rev Dr William Henry criticised them for failing to respond to a call "for courageous and compassionate leadership".

"We very much regret that this latest opportunity to restore devolution to Northern Ireland has not been fully grasped by our local political parties," he said.

"We have consistently encouraged those on all sides to set aside their 'red lines' to find an accommodation that would allow the formation of an Executive, and have supported the Secretary of State in his efforts.

"It remains surprising that some parties have been willing to allow the UK Parliament to legislate for the people of Northern Ireland without consideration of the devolution settlement, and we are disappointed that the recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly today was dismissed by some as a political stunt." He restated the Church position, that decisions on "the sensitive issues of abortion and same-sex marriage" should remain the responsibility of MLAs.

"While we deeply regret that the consequence of this continued stalemate will be the introduction of an abortion regime far beyond what people may imagine, the failure of this attempt to restore devolution means that many other pressing concerns will continue to remain unaddressed which affect the lives of everyone in our society, not least the marginalised and vulnerable."

Rev Henry said the Church would now concentrate its efforts on a consultation concerning "the change in the definition of marriage, the abortion of unborn children, and the important rights of conscience for those in the medical and nursing professions". He added: "Although this window of opportunity has now passed we call on party leaders to renew efforts to restore devolution."

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