The DUP Have Returned To Stormont To Protest Abortion Reform In Northern Ireland

The last-ditch attempt to stop abortion reform has been dubbed a 'political stunt'.

Protests in Belfast

by Georgia Aspinall |

Thirty Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) have signed a petition to re-form Stormont today in a last-ditch attempt to protest abortion reform and same-sex marriage being legalized in Northern Ireland.

The meeting of the MLAs – from the DUP, UUP and TUV – is being considered a ‘political stunt’ by many as they will not be able to appoint an executive, a necessity should they try and change the impending law reform.

Stormont has not been restored since January 2017 when tensions between the DUP and Sinn Fein caused an outright collapse of the devolved government. Since then, the House of Commons has been responsible for legislation in Northern Ireland, allowing MPs to reform the laws around abortion and same-sex marriage.

However, MLAs were given a deadline of midnight tonight to restore the Assembly, meaning that the impending law changes will not come into action until 00.01am tomorrow. While the 30 MLAs protesting the law changes are attempting to restore the Assembly, without the support of Sinn Fein they will not be able to appoint an executive thus making the entire debacle a pointless show of protest.

‘The Act requires not just that the Assembly is recalled but that an Executive is formed,’ Alliance leader Naomi Long tweeted in response to the MLAs meeting. ‘The DUP know that won't happen by Monday, they've put no serious effort into restoring the institutions for months. If they wanted an Executive, they would have.’

The DUP has put no serious effort into restoring the institutions for months

Baroness Nuala O’Loan, the Northern Ireland peer who proposed recalling the Assembly, has rejected the characterisation of the meeting as a ‘political stunt'.

'It took 17 minutes on July 18 for the House of Commons to receive and agree the proposed change to Northern Ireland’s abortion law,' she said. 'Just 17 minutes. Those who passed the law did not represent us and they did not take time to work out the consequences of what they were doing.'

She claims almost 29,000 people have signed a petition for the government to stop the reforms. But human rights campaigners are not taking the protest lightly, also forming their own demonstration on the streets of Belfast today as a show of force against the MLAs.

Protest in Belfast
©Getty Images

In that last few days, Boris Johnson’s government has showed renewed interest in restoring the Assembly – with MP Stella Creasy stating that the government are using women’s lives as bargaining chips to curry favour with the DUP in regards to his Brexit deal.

However, despite all of this the legislation will still pass, with Amnesty International hosting a celebration in Belfast today welcoming same-sex marriage. ‘This is an incredible moment for so many people, especially for same-sex couples who will now be treated as equal citizens in their own country and women who will no longer face the prospect of prosecution for seeking health care,’ Patrick Corrigan, spokesperson for Amnesty International told News Letter.

And so, while this show of protest from political power players does darken an otherwise celebratory moment, with no chance of the reforms being stopped this is certainly a day for celebration in Northern Ireland.

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