Sunday 24 June 2018

Yes campaigners turn focus on the North - but Foster underlines DUP's pro-life stance

Yes campaigners at Dublin Castle hold signs calling for change in Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty
Yes campaigners at Dublin Castle hold signs calling for change in Northern Ireland. Photo: Getty
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Campaigners who led the successful Together For Yes group plan to turn their attention to Northern Ireland in the wake of the landslide referendum victory.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is now under pressure to legislate in the North, which is the only part of the UK where terminations are banned.

Senior figures within her Conservative Party and in Labour have said Northern Ireland can no longer be an outlier.

But the sudden shift in focus across the Border prompted a quick response from DUP leader Arlene Foster, who said it was a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

It is almost 18 months since the Assembly collapsed and scores of MPs across the House of Commons in London have indicated they are prepared to rewrite the current legislation given the absence of a devolved administration.

Ms Foster, whose party underpins the UK government, reaffirmed the DUP as a "pro-life party" and accused political opponents of trying "circumvent the Assembly's role".

Grainne Griffin, a co-director of Together for Yes, said the North had "a need for clear, comprehensive abortion legislation to be introduced".

"We have received huge support and solidarity from the women of Northern Ireland and I know that everybody in Together for Yes will say that we stand with you now."

Ireland could be a "beacon of hope" for other countries where campaigns were under way for similar change, she said.

However, Ms Foster criticised the scenes in Dublin Castle over the weekend, saying abortion was "an extremely sensitive issue and not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration".

Setting out the British Labour Party's position, shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said: "Fifty years ago, abortion was decriminalised under a Labour government but women in Northern Ireland are still denied this fundamental right, having to travel to mainland UK or faced with potential prosecution and imprisonment at home.

"This is an injustice. No woman in the UK should be denied access to a safe, legal abortion."

In formulating legislation and funding options for an abortion regime, the Irish Government will have to take account of the likelihood that women from the North will now travel to the Republic for a termination.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin has called for a referendum on a united Ireland following the abortion poll.

Irish Independent

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