A move to ban smacking children in Northern Ireland is in limbo after a Stormont committee did a U-turn.
The Justice Committee had previously agreed to table an amendment to the Justice Bill which would have removed the defence of “reasonable chastisement” — but the proposal was defeated yesterday.
A vote on the amendment was three in favour, and three against — but it fell because a majority is required.
A court clerk stated that Sinn Fein’s Emma Rogan delegated her vote to Sinead Ennis, who left before the vote.
SDLP MLA Sinead Bradley has said she was left shocked at a Justice Committee “U-turn on instituting a ban on the physical punishment of children”.
Ms Bradley said: “I was shocked when the final proposal was defeated at a meeting this afternoon because a number of members were not present to vote. This is deeply disappointing and a missed opportunity to demonstrate a broad consensus on this important issue. It is particularly disappointing that both of Sinn Féin’s South Down MLAs were absent for the vote.
Sinn Féin said: “Sinéad Ennis had to leave for urgent family business; the chair was informed in advance. The amendment is being tabled as a cross party amendment by Sinn Féin, SDLP and Green Party.”