“in defiance of political opinion in the North..”

Ahead of Wednesday scheduled debate in the Commons on equalising “the right to have access to safe and legal abortion” across the UK, in the Irish Times, Frank Millar mentions the contrast in governmental attitude to other recent debates on rights and equality..

DUP junior minister Jeffrey Donaldson last week suggested that any attempt to liberalise the law in Northern Ireland would trigger “a constitutional crisis” and could “put an end” to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Few senior figures at Westminster appear to actually believe this, although the government plainly does not want any form of confrontation given the current stand-off between the DUP and Sinn Féin over the devolution of policing and justice powers.

The British government has acted twice in the past year in defiance of political opinion in the North – in lowering and equalising the age of sexual consent, and in outlawing discrimination on sexual orientation grounds in the provision of goods and services.

And it’s not just on rights issues that the government has been keen to emphasise the desirability of harmonising the law across the UK..

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  • Intelligence Insider

    I’m a Unionist, have always voted so, and will always do so. I think it’s abhorrent that girls from this part of the U.K. are forced to travel to other parts of the same country to have abortions. I fully support allowing abortion in this part of the United Kingdom, in line with the law in the rest of the country.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Constitutional crisis? In what sense? The UK parliament makes law for the UK how is that a crisis? Maybe Donaldson should have gone to University so he could actually understand the constitution, didn’t he have a place at Cambridge? LOL. Funny how his unionism take second place to his own fundamentalist Christianity when push comes to shove.

  • Danny Boy

    I heard Jeffrey Donaldson on Woman’s Hour this morning arguing with a good deal of self-righteousness that MPs from the rest of the UK should keep off his turf – ‘I am an MP for Lagan Valley’ – and not vote to change the law in Northern Ireland. An odd position, given that he and other NI MPs had no qualms about voting to reduce English women’s access to abortion last year.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Its just asking too much to expect intellectual consistency from the likes of Donaldson. A small and small minded, ill educated, ignorant man. He is purely a reactionary and not capable of holding together a sensible and consistent political philosophy. The job of an MP is to legislate in the UK parliament for the UK. Ergo he votes on issues that will impact England, Wales, Scotland and they vote on things that impact NI. Some issues are devolved to regional parliaments and the UK parliament does not legislate on those. However it could if it wished to because it is sovereign. I would send him a copy of Dicey so he could figure all this out but I suspect he would just burn it along with all the other books he doesn’t understand.

  • Daisy

    It’s a shame we can’t be given a referendum on this issue. The vast majority of politicians favour the status quo, but they’re not necessarily representative of the electorate (how many people give their preference on polling day on the basis of the candidate’s stance on abortion?). If there was a referendum, I’ve no doubt that the anti-abortion side would win, but it’s the margin of the win I’d be interested in. Those who are pro choice don’t always feel confident in expressing this view; the safety of the ballot box would perhaps give them the confidence.

  • Inteligence Insider

    I am not a Unionist and would never vote Unionist even if I could but I think that you are right.On this highly emotive issue I have to go with the pro-choice option.I believe that in a way to be anti-abortion can seem an easier option but unless this were backed up with high levels of support for young women and high levels of child care provision and assistance,From what I have seen of Irish society on both sides of the border they are quick to codemn both abortion and having to pay for unwanted children.They should not be allowed to have it both ways.In an ideal world better contraception would ease the problem but we do not see to have solved the situation yet by a longway.

  • Is there still a social stigma on unmarried motherhood? I don’t really think so, and certainly not in the cities.

  • Greenflag

    blinding ,

    ‘In an ideal world better contraception would ease the problem but we do not see to have solved the situation yet by a longway. ‘

    Go to Holland – do not pass go -do not collect 200 pounds and see how the Dutch handle these very emotive issues with practical common sense . They have access to ‘abortion’ and yet one of the lowest rates of same in the world .

    The developed Anglosphere countries much more so than EU countries seem to rely on ‘abortion’ as the contraceptive of last resort other than using ‘contraception’ as a practical means of avoiding abortion . Well thats what the numbers tell us . As part of the Anglopher both Northern Ireland and the Republic can indulge in the ‘irresponsible ‘ behaviour of unplanned ‘pregnancies ‘ and rely on English /Scots/Welsh to provide the services our politicians would rather not see are provided .

    Donaldson is no different than many of the Republic’s politicians who look to muti seat constituencies and wonder if opening their mouth on the issue could cost them their seat . Twenty years ago – it would . Today it’s less likely particularly in urbanised areas.

    They can I’m sure find an ‘irish solution ‘ to this emotive problem on both sides of the border . Perhaps this is an area whereby a common approach to this issue would help to keep crossing the border from becoming a replacement fro taking the ferry or a shuttle flight to some major English city .

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    greenflag totally agree the first line should be contraceptives to avoid these unwanted pregnancies. No one wants lot of abortions but it should be up to the mother to choose if she wants to carry it or not.

    Donaldson is in Lagan Valley as an MP so its an FPTP system not a multiple member seat. Its multiple STV for the Assembly only. No Donaldons believes what he is saying. One thing to remember with the wee wee wee fella is that he is a christian fundy and it skews his perception of everything. He does not live in the world of the 21st century or the mostly secular wider UK. He is also not very bright and is not someone who has self educated to make up for a lack of University education. Robinson didn’t go to Uni but he is smarter and has read around over the years. Donaldson has not. Her can quote the bible at you but not much else.

    Oh yes and before anyone points it out in this case its quite hard to tell the difference between a small round wind filled bag of skin and a football.

  • I don’t really see the relevance of a university education to this debate Duncan to be honest. After all, Dodds has a first in Law from Cambrdige doesn’t he?

  • ggn

    I do not see the bearing of a university education to this debate or many others.

    I am extremely well educated but I meet tens of people everyday far more intelligent and certainely far more successful than I, therefore I must conclude that a a university education is quite irrelevent.

    Primark (just for example) is absolutely full of phds.

    Sean Quinn left school at 14, his ability, sucess and intelligence cannot be questioned however.

  • joeCanuck

    Constitutional crisis?
    What is he going to do? Appeal to her Majesty to overrule the elected Parliament? I don’t think so.
    Declare UDI? The rest of the UK would love that. Think of the money they would save. Presumably the DUP has a secret war chest out of which they will pay pensions etc.
    AS Duncan says, he’s just a windbag.

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    The relevance, Garibaldy, of a ‘university education’ to this debate, is to illustrate how modest and charming its beneficiaries are. As Dunkers demonstrates post after post. It must make you more than a little envious that you didn’t, I assume, get to go to the, ahem, “University of Essex”.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Love you too ‘Why?’. Actually lots of people don’t get a Uni education but are able to educate themselves through experience and reading. Its not the be all and end all. My point is that Donaldson is a small minded man who has not done that. If he had gone to University he ‘might’ have learned something about thinking and reading, of course like many others who do go he might not. Equally he could have done it anyway but he didn’t. Of course the real point is that DUP lurkers on here will no doubt read it and I know that wee wee wee Jeffrey has a chip the size of himself on his shoulder about not going, that is why he comes up with shit about non existent Cambridge offers. Just poking at a sad little man’s insecurities. I am a mean mean man.

    What’s wrong with the University of Essex? Besides you missed out my masters from Queens and Harvard.(ahem)

  • slug

    “What’s wrong with the University of Essex?”

    The architecture?

  • Pete Baker


    You left the ball behind some time ago in this thread.

    If you could try to refocus on it?

    And, Donaldson’s comments aside, the main point here is the UK government’s apparent inconsistency.

  • Driftwood

    George W Bush has an MBA from Harvard. ’nuff said.

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    I don’t of course mind posts like the one below being deleted, but as has been said before – doing so sans indication of redaction does nothing for Slugger’s wider credibility. You won;t find that many Unionists who will disagree with the proposition that, in the last 12 months, Slugger has become something of a Nationalist echo chamber. All that said, I would like it to stand that, poor old DSD *was* indeed capable of being baited into Harvarding within a solitary poster (and that yours truly has rather gleefully won a 50 quid bet off that sad, sad fact).


    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    As I suspect you’ve gathered by now Pete, I’m for one perfectly willing to ‘play the ball’. Though I *was* curious as ever to know e.g. quite how long the distinctly off-ball goulderising of Mister-I’m-Proud-of-Being-in-Mensa would pass Slugger Admin by. Consistency is a deeply boring virtue, but it does make for a simpler life.

  • The Raven

    So anyway, moving back to the issue of harmonisation of abortion across the UK…

    If I could just echo the initial poster’s thoughts, with the exception of the Unionist voter bit.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Slug,Yep fair enough there its some ugly concrete. Driftwood, true but that is the school over the river so what do you expect.

    Why?. Ok interesting bet don’t spend it all in one place. I am proud I went to Harvard actually. Its the number one university in the world. Its extremely hard to get into and it was an excellent learning experience from which I benefited a great deal. Lots of people from all over the world would love to have the chance I had and I recognise that it was a great privilege on my part. But no in Northern Ireland its a subject to be mocked. I got a really good and expensive education at Harvard and I would like the chance to put it to good use in Northern Ireland. I think I am allowed to mention it when a direct comment is made about my earlier education but I don’t suppose it really matters. I think your attitude says more about you than me. I just don’t understand why you guys still hate me so much really. Shame the post was edited I would have liked to read it. Still feel free to email it to me as my email address unlike yours is genuine.

    Pete, fair enough just couldn’t resist and in my view some it fair game as the lack of intellectual consistency on this issue by some unionists is worth note. Either the union means that a wider national politic exists or it doesn’t if it doesn’t then why the union at all? I don’t see the logic of people looking for a special opt out for NI on the issue. If they have a personal opposition to abortion then by all means vote against it in the national parliament but looking for a special NI exception on something like this because you know that the overwhelming majority of your countrymen/women don’t agree with you doesn’t seem to me to make much sense as a unionist.

  • X

    Sadly as so often we have wandered from the pathway. THe prob we have are two sets of politicians still scared of the men of the cloth. Regardless of what everyone says or thinks hundreds of women travel to GB for an abortion, merrily waved good bye by our politicians in an incredibly NIMBY sort of way. If Jeffrey or any other of our gallant MLA really believed in being anti abortion then they should seek to change to law restricting travel to procure an abortion – otherwise it is is NIMBYism at its worst

  • ulsterfan

    I presume our Unionist politicians believe and support Westminster as being the sovereign authority in NI and if so Westminster can pass what laws it thinks fit even if these refer to devolved matters.
    Westminster rules!!!!!!

  • Why am I still a UUP voter?

    Duncan, I don’t know whether to laugh at you for your self-destructive envy of Jeffrey, MP, or pity you for the sheer levels of bitterness you’ve displayed on this thread. But do let me and my fifty quid assure you of this: I don’t hate you. Find you a constant source of slightly dim-witted pleasure? Yup, but hate you? Not even slightly.

    FWIW I can neither see a problem with abortion (it’s plainly *not* infanticide) nor can I see a problem, constitutional or otherwise, with the UK within itself containing a multiplicity of approaches towards its availability, or lack thereof.

    And Duncan, trust me, no one is impressed with Harvard MBAs these days. Getting into the college is, I suppose, a reasonable mark of personal academic distinction, but honestly, HBS? That really is, for better or for worth, on a par with doing ones undergraduate degree at, well, Essex. But that’s the thing: you really are taken in by these external signifiers, aren’t you? As I said, pity is my other main feeling when I contemplate you. But do otherwise keep us laughing, eh?

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    One emotion I do not feel for Jeffrey is envy. Its disdain not bitterness.

    FYI: Its an MPA not an MBA I went to the Kennedy School of Government not the Business school. Going to college mattered to me because no one in my family had ever gone before so I was pleased to get in, even to Essex. Essex is a decent enough university and the law department is reasonably well regarded. I had a good time there myself and I may even have learned something. Sorry its not up to your high standards. Not sure how this relates to the main point of the thread though but it obviously entertains you. Still nice to see we agree on the issue of abortion itself.

    External signifiers? Hmmm. Maybe so but I suppose I will just have to work on my own sense of self worth and self esteem a little more. Its an ongoing project.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Actually maybe you are right. I went too far on my comments on Donaldson. Sorry.

    Reflecting a bit on your comments my initial response to them was anger but as we all know anger is a secondary emotion so I had to think a bit to dig down to the underlying emotional response. In truth your remarks hurt my feelings a great deal. My education does have value to me because it represents a set of markers in my life and it didn’t come easy. Its correct though that external signifiers are not a replacement for real self esteem. The comments cut because I know that already. Still I suppose its fair dues considering I did the same to Donaldson. I will ponder that some more and try not to take such glee in pulling down someone like Donaldson next time.

    Still its not on point though is it. So to answer your point on the issue its not a multiplicity of approaches though its all of GB is one way and NI alone is different and that is because NI was specifically left out at the time the 1967 Act was passed. I suppose I would suggest that on certain issues of basic rights the UK should have a universal approach rather than tolerate variation and as a unionist this means that the 1967 Act should apply to NI. The difficulty perhaps is in framing what the list of basic UK rights should be.

  • hurdy gurdy man

    The most courageously honest posting I have ever read on Slugger – or anywhere else.

  • Why am I still a UUP voter

    Look, let’s leave your personal self-development to one side. I really don’t care one way or the other. Although – and being utterly, flawlessly sanctimonious myself – it was, as I’m semi-glad you’ve now twigged, more than slightly absurd that you were attempting to sneer at Donaldson on the grounds that you were.

    As far as abortion goes, I take a Tory, particularist approach. There *aren’t* ‘universal British rights’ (Thank God), from my ur-Tory standpoint, and I’m, as I’ve said, perfectly content that a thousand flowers should bloom. Hoorah for dry counties neighbouring wet ones in Wales! Whizzo for congestion charging in London but not in Edinburgh (or vice versa). And, bonzer, up to a point, for abortion being illegal here in the Statelet, but lawful on John Bull’s larger island. But I’m in so many ways not the right person to ask, being comprehensively agnostic on the subject: I can neither see why people want to applaud abortion (in the one sensible thing Germaine Greer ever said, ‘why would anyone ever want to celebrate amputation?’), nor can I take seriously anyone who insists that what’s in the womb after, say, 3 months is a human being like you or me. It’s not. In some ways I think we’re uniquely lucky in NI: abortion *has* become casual, and almost post-conception contraception, and that *is* unhealthy. But equally it shouldn’t be illegal. So the substantial amount of ‘hassle’ introduced into the decision by our present laws seem to me to be cheeringly beneficial. Yet then again, while I’m never especially keen on banning things, not do I have any great reluctance about the state, on behalf of wider (ideally Christian) society, tapping, in effect, folk on the shoulder, raising its eyebrows and intoning, ‘really?’

  • joeCanuck

    All the world’s wrongs could be corrected if we would just jail women who had abortions and, at the same time, send male homosexuals to incarceration with a large group of other men who crave sexual relief.
    The whole world’s in a state of chasis!

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    If there are not any universal British rights then in what sense does a British polity exist that is more than simply a historical anachronism? ie unless we all share a basic set of political rights applied equally throughout the UK then what makes us commonly British in a multicultural society? The other issues you flag are local administrative matters that can properly be variable depending on local circumstances. So are there no issues that should be consistently applied throughout the union? voting rights? custody rights? rights to a lawyer? fair trial? free speech? free movement? Abortion seems to me to fall into that bag of rights because of its nature as being so fundamental to the control of an individual woman’s body. Pregnancy is a dangerous health threatening condition and compelling a woman to go through it against her will seems to violate a very basic sense of individual political rights for me and thus fall into the realm of ‘universal’ rights. I use the word rights but really I mean shared political privilege special to the political society we are in, namely the UK. I don’t believe in god so I don’t recognise universal human rights as being innate but that’s a tangent.

    I would not applaud abortion at all and I don’t think many women undertake it lightly. I also think Germaine Greer might have said one other thing that was sensible but I prefer Susan Faludi myself.

    I am a little sceptical that its become like a contraceptive but the rates have increased from 5.3 per 1000 in women 15-44 in 1969 to 16.9 per 1000 in 2004 in England and Wales. That is a notable shift. Although the fact it has increased does not alone explain the causes. Other factors may be important as well, ease of access, social acceptability etc. I certainly would prefer sensible use of contraceptives but as I am sure you know none of them are 100% effective and the best one, the pill, has some health side effects which may make it undesirable to some women.

    I am not sure about the idea of the state tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘really’. If its to promote a particular concept of Judeo/Christian morals then a big no thanks to that. If its to ‘nudge’ me into eating better and drinking less because it makes me fat and unhealthy and that costs the NHS money longer term then maybe but only so long as I can ignore the eminently sensible advice I am given.

  • runciter

    If its to promote

    “It’s”, Duncan, “it’s”.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton

    Ok so “it’s” it is. Thank you Lynne Truss.

  • Greenflag

    duncan shipley dalton

    ‘the first line should be contraceptives to avoid these unwanted pregnancies. No one wants lot of abortions but it should be up to the mother to choose if she wants to carry it or not.’

    That to me is just common sense . If a male doesn’t want his girlfriend , spouse , one nighter to become ‘pregnant’ then he knows what to do. Likewise the female has to make a decision based on her values and needs and not on those who would want to impose their ‘values’ on her .

    As for ‘university education’ ? It’s like everything else – it can be overated and underated and we all know that some universities are rated ‘higher’ than others for all sorts of reasons . And for some people it can be a diversion . Would Sean Quinn have become such a successful entrepreneur had he gone to university ? Probably not . He might be an accountant or a lawyer or a doctor or teacher being paid by the State and contributing his income tax.

    I did see a recent ranking of world universities in terms of research , academic standards etc etc and I recall Harvard & Yale being in the top 5 with Oxford or Cambridge in the top ten one in I think in 4th . Dublin University (Trinity)upped it’s standing to 49th from a previous 51st and UCD was 101 also an improvement . Queens made it to 200 approx .

    In the context of the present world economic disorder none of the above institutions can hold a candle to the Chicago School of Economics and Professor Milton Friedman and his political disciples who believed that ‘the free market’ if given total rein would solve ‘all ‘ mans economic and thus political problems .

    30 years later following on failed experiments in Argentina , Chile and Bolivia and further afield -Americans and the rest of the world are now coming to grips with how a wonderful economic theory at least on paper anyway, is being ‘rubbished’ by the ‘real ‘ world in which we all have to live in and share however unequally.

  • Duncan Shipley Dalton


    Dont start me on Milton Friedman and the Chigaco school. I think it all went wrong when Ricardo introduced maths to economics. The Chigaco people are everywhere and have driven out the others it seems. At Harvard the thinking amongst the Economics faculty always seemed to me to be very Chigaco and lets not talk about Galbraith or Keynes. It could be a frustrating atmosphere sometimes.

    As for Quinn would he have done so well if his family didn’t happen to own a gravel pit for him to extract from? A lot of times it seems to come down to luck more than anything else.

  • Greenflag

    duncan shipley dalton ,

    ‘Dont start me on Milton Friedman and the Chigaco school.’

    I hear you . Mind you the Chinese Communists liked old Milt and he was a real hit with South American Dictators /Generals . If you ever needed proof that Chicago School Economics will deliver totalitarianism one only has to look at how China copes with a ‘free market ‘ economy on the one hand and a one party State on the other :
    If democracy is not compatible with Friedonian economics then no prizes for guessing which goes to the wall first . Not the children of Communist Party officials anyway more so the Tianemen Square students . According to a 2006 report some 90% of China’s new billionaires are childen of the ‘party ‘ and the group known as the ‘princelings ‘ control some 260 billion yuan . A mirror although much larger image of Pinochet’s oligarchic regime (btw another Friedman follower and also much admired by Mrs T)

    . The neo conservatives of present day Washington perceive any form of democratic ‘socialism’ i.e some countries in the EU , as a greater threat than totalitarian communism . If I remember my history a certain Herr Hitler also had little love for the ‘weak willed democracies ‘ surrounding his ‘corporate’ State either .

    ‘It could be a frustrating atmosphere sometimes.’

    I’m sorry to hear that the Chicago ‘thugs’ even managed to airbrush Galbraith & Keynes in their mission to bring absolute ‘economic ‘ freedom to not just the commercial world but to academia also . That old ‘revenge ‘ is sweet thing once again as for decades Friedman was considered a ‘nutter’ on the fringes of economics – a judgement that we may now be seeing was not to far off the mark .

    This is not to say Friedman had no economic insights to offer -just that applying them in the real world has caused immense destruction and loss of life -from South America to China and places in between 🙁 We’ll not mention the emisseration of the USA’s middle class over the past 25 plus years .

    If you have further interest in the gorey details of the worldwide havoc created by Prof Friedman and his neo ‘destructionist ‘ school I refer you to Naomi Klein’s excellent book ‘The Shock Doctrine ‘ the rise of disaster capitalism .

    I suspect that we may be in for a return to favour of messrs Galbraith and Keynes although some upgrading will be needed to cope with this ‘globalised ‘ economy . Interesting times ahead for the seekers of economic ‘mathematical ‘ perfection 😉

    ‘ A lot of times it seems to come down to luck more than anything else. ‘

    Yes but people often make their own luck too . One recalls Napoleons quip that he much preferred ‘lucky ‘ generals to tall or good looking or educated ones . Others have noted that being on the right continent, in the right country , at the right time, and being born into a family whose surname is Rotschild or Windsor can be a distinct advantage 😉

    Alas as regards electing politicians or appointing economists , we have no way of knowing in advance how well equipped they are in the ‘lucky’ department 🙁 Although one would have thought that something would have been learned from the Savings & Loan debacle in the late 1980’s ?

    Beware ‘fudamentalism ‘ be it in religion, in politics , or in economics . Fukuyama I believe is now having a rethink on his former ‘no third way’ as between the unfettered capitalism of free markets and communism .Also undergoing a ‘rethink is the other Freidman -Thomas who has now discovered that not only is the world ‘flat’ but it’s crowded too !

    Brilliant observation that though hardly original .

    Good luck in your work in progress. I have a residue of awed respect for those few bright folks who are still trying to come to grips with NI politics . Would’nt have the patience meself ye see but that’s a character defect I’ve gotten used to 🙂