Belfast Telegraph

Presbyterian leader wants unionists to drop Irish language red lines to stop abortion legalisation

Rev Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church
Rev Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church

A Northern Ireland Church leader has said unionists should "set aside their red lines" about an Irish language act in order to stop the legalisation of abortion.

The statement from Reverend Trevor Gribben of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland comes following a joint message from the heads of Northern Ireland's main Churches expressing their concern at the prospect of an "almost unregulated abortion regime" being "imposed" by Westminster.

In July, MPs passed a motion a motion compelling the Government to provide access to abortion in Northern Ireland unless Stormont is restored by October 21.

At present, abortion is only allowed here in very limited circumstances.

Speaking on BBC's Good Morning Ulster, Rev Gribben said abortion laws should not be introduced without "proper scrutiny and consultation" by people in Northern Ireland.

"What we're saying to all parties is that people need to set aside their red lines. The issue of unrestricted abortion is too serious to be having pointless debates over the Irish language," he said.

"It is in the hands of our politicians to do something about this, they must come back... the Irish language is nothing to fear in my community. People have politicised it by saying 'it's a big demand' - it's not.

"My fellow citizens, often many Roman Catholics, people from a nationalist background - the Irish language is precious to them.

"Therefore we shouldn't be afraid to bring in sensible Irish language legislation and people that try and block it by saying it would be a big compromise are actually doing us a disservice. Abortion is more important - we should get back to our devolved settlement."

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty International’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “Decriminalisation, which will take effect on October 22, does not equate to deregulation, it simply means that women will no longer be treated as criminals for accessing healthcare.

“The Northern Ireland Office will issue interim guidance in advance of 21 October."

The introduction of an Irish language act has been a major hurdle in negotiations to restore the devolved institutions at Stormont.

Last year, it was reported that the DUP leadership had agreed a draft deal with Sinn Fein that included an Irish language act, however this was swiftly dropped when the news spread to DUP voters.

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