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NI people ‘more worried over abortion law change than Irish Language Act’

By David Young

Almost twice as many people in Northern Ireland are more concerned about changes to abortion laws than an Irish Language Act, a survey suggests.

The poll, commissioned by anti-abortion campaign group Both Lives Matter, found that 49% of those asked identified the need to safeguard legal protections for the unborn child, up to 28 weeks into pregnancy, as the most compelling reason for Stormont to be restored.

The survey, conducted ahead of the imminent decriminalisation of abortion here, found that around half that number (25%) felt protections for Irish language speakers was a more important issue. The remainder - 26% - said they were unsure.

The 1,424 respondents were asked which issue they felt was more important in negotiations to resurrect devolved government - an Irish Language Act or safeguarding explicit legal protections for every unborn child up to 28 weeks.

Of unionists polled by LucidTalk, 70% identified the abortion issue as the more important - the percentage was higher among DUP voters, at 80%.

There were contrasting findings for SDLP and Sinn Fein voters. For Sinn Fein supporters, 59% said the Irish language was the more important issue, with 23% saying abortion. For SDLP voters, 52% said abortion and 19% said the Irish language.

Abortion will be decriminalised in Northern Ireland later this month as a consequence of a law passed by MPs at Westminster in the summer.

The move will only be halted if the Stormont executive is restored by October 21 - a prospect that appears remote given the depth of the rift between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

One of the issues at the heart of the 1,000-day impasse is the Sinn Fein demand for the introduction of an Irish Language Act - a law the DUP has resisted.

If abortion is decriminalised, the Government will take on responsibility for introducing new regulations to provide greater access to abortions in the region by next April.

Anti-abortion activists have urged Stormont politicians to set aside their differences and get back into government to stop the moves to liberalise the abortion laws.

Pro-choice campaigners have welcomed the Westminster intervention to overhaul NI's strict abortion regime.

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