Belfast Telegraph

Stormont Assembly recall sparks new war of words

Move over abortion law reform 'bid to block rights'

A rally against abortion law reform took place earlier this year
A rally against abortion law reform took place earlier this year
A rally for abortion law reform from earlier this year
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Political leaders have been urged to "face up to their responsibility" as MLAs return to Stormont in a last-ditch bid to stop reform of Northern Ireland's abortion law.

Anti-abortion group Both Lives Matter said 31 MLAs had signed a petition to force a recall of the Assembly to discuss a motion to put the issue back in the hands of local politicians.

However, a ministerial Executive will only be formed once the DUP and Sinn Fein agree to re-enter into a coalition.

Naomi Connor, Alliance for Choice co-convener, said the recall would not deter those fighting for the rights of women in Northern Ireland.

"The motion has one sole agenda: to obstruct the fulfilment of the human rights of women," she said. "It is not a genuine attempt to restart our devolved government."

Sinn Fein have dismissed the recall as a "publicity stunt" and will not be attending, sparking an angry reaction from the DUP.

DUP Assembly chief whip Gordon Lyons said: "Their arrogant dismissal of that demonstrates a disregard for devolution. DUP MLAs signed the recall petition and we will be there on Monday, ready to nominate ministers to an Executive."

SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan confirmed that he will be attending and said he understood other party MLAs could also be present.

His party leader Colum Eastwood criticised the recall but has yet to decide if his party, which is "pro-life", will attend. But he said the SDLP will not "play to the DUP's tune".

TUV leader Jim Allister and Ulster Unionists Robin Swann, Robbie Butler and Roy Beggs were among those to sign the recall petition.

The Alliance Party called the recall "showboating".

"It appears those wanting to go back on Monday are only doing so to try and deny LGBTQ people and women the rights guaranteed to them in the rest of the UK," said MLA Trevor Lunn.

Diocese of Clogher Bishop Larry Duffy, however, has called on Northern Ireland's political leaders to "face up to their responsibility to protect life, especially the life of the most vulnerable, such as unborn babies and their mothers".

He accused Westminster of "cynically manipulating" the political impasse to allow for abortion reform.

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