By Tabatha Baylis
Since the collapse at Stormont, the last week will likely be remembered as transformative for Northern Ireland and Westminster. In a move that the socially conservative DUP has branded as a ‘breach of devolution,’ Parliament has pushed through an amendment set to legalise same sex marriage and liberalise abortion.
This is uncommon territory for Stormont and Westminster alike.
Unsurprisingly, the DUP voted against both amendments, whilst the Northern Ireland Secretary, Karen Bradley, and Prime Minister Theresa May both abstained from voting. The independent unionist Lady Hermon, representing the North Down constituency, along with Northern Ireland Office Minister John Penrose, backed the same
These recent events are both a welcome triumph for same
After decades of protests and campaigning, many will welcome the changes that are waiting in the wings. Despite this, it is important to remember that, however progressive these changes are, they are further proof that Stormont is becoming more irrelevant than ever in its absence.
However progressive these changes are, they are further proof that Stormont is becoming more irrelevant than ever in its absence.
What’s next for Northern Ireland?
It is unlikely that talks at Stormont will lead to a breakthrough and restore devolution before the end of October, especially given there is such a significant law waiting to be implemented. If the Northern Ireland Assembly has not been restored by 21 October, the government must bring regulations to Parliament to amend the law in Northern Ireland.
Nikki Da Costa, Number 10’s former legislative affairs director, has reportedly advised that MPs could ask for a resolution to overturn the amendment,
Northern Ireland Office Minister John Penrose has also advised that even if Stormont is not restored by the deadline, time constraints mean they may be unlikely to be able to implement the law change right away.
Amidst the controversy, there are calls for MPs to push through other previously hindered laws for Northern Ireland. It is unlikely that the upcoming issue of abortion in Northern Ireland will be as clear cut as same sex marriage – a letter by Baroness Nuala O’Loan and Church of Ireland Archbishop Lord Eames was handed out at Catholic church servies, describing the move as treating the people of Northern Ireland with ‘contempt’. Such wording reflects a growing friction between the effort to bring Northern Irish laws in line with Britain’s and the country’s attempt to hold onto their governmental autonomy.
Image by Tim Dennell via Creative Commons