DUP-Tory deal ‘will end’ over gay marriage and abortion reforms, says MLA

The DUP should pull the plug on its pact with the Conservatives if the government persists in pushing through legislation to change the law on same-sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland, an MLA has said.

Wednesday, 10th July 2019, 3:07 pm
Members of the LGBT community celebrate at the Maverick bar, Belfast, as same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland came a step closer after MPs voted to legalise it if a new Stormont Executive is not formed by October. Photo credit: Peter Morrison/PA Wire

MPs have voted to force the government to liberalise access to abortion and legalise same-sex marriage in the Province if devolution is not restored.

Gay marriage is illegal in NI, while terminations are only allowed in cases where a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a danger of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

The votes were held as part of House of Commons measures aimed at keeping NI public services running, two and a half years after devolved powersharing collapsed.

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Both changes could still be halted if Stormont is restored by October 21.

And South Down DUP MLA Jim Wells said “all steps must be taken” to stop the Bill becoming law. This includes the DUP withdrawing its support for the Tory administration at Westminster.

The two parties entered into a confidence and supply pact two years ago as Theresa May sought to keep her minority government in power.

Mr Wells said: “The Conservative Government can at any time before the Royal Assent pull this legislation, and If this happens then the threat of abortion on demand will be removed.

“It must be made absolutely clear to the Conservatives that if they persist in pushing this toxic legislation through the House of Lords then the confidence and supply agreement is at an end and the Government will fall.

“The lives of many unborn children depend on resolute action being taken to stop this bill and our MPs will have the support of the people of Northern Ireland if they use the power that they have to do this.”

In an interview on BBC’s Good Morning Ulster, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was asked if the party would DUP use its leverage over the Tories to prevent these changes from becoming law.

He replied: “The problem with that is that suggestion is that there is a long standing convention in the Commons that matters of conscience such as abortion and marriage fall to a free vote, so parties do not whip their members on these issues. That is what happened yesterday and that would be the case in the future.”

Sir Jeffrey also said the move by the Commons yesterday “breached” the devolution settlement and warned that it would make it more difficult to get devolution restored, adding: “There is little incentive for Sinn Fein to restore devolution now.”

DUP Alderman John Finlay said Westminster’s support for the introduction of same sex marriage and abortion reform is a “disgraceful betrayal which rides roughshod over the whole principle of devolved government”.

The Ballymoney councillor also claimed the House of Commons had “stooped to a new moral and political low”.

He added: “In light of these latest developments at Westminster, we must redouble our efforts to secure the return of devolution. More importantly, we must pray for our Province. We are on a path that takes us further and further away from Biblical principles, and, unless the current trend is reversed, we are going to reap an awful whirlwind.”

Gavin Boyd from LGBT group the Rainbow Project said a change of legislation would not automatically alter people’s views on social attitudes, but added: “It gives LGBT people the space to change attitudes on our own.

“Decriminalisation didn’t make people like gay men, but it allowed gay men to be visible in society. Legislation gives us the space, the freedom, the ability to change hearts and minds just bey being able to exist visibly.”

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