Supreme Court ruling on abortion a week today. Time to get off the back foot, Arlene

The Supreme Court has announced that its decision on Northern Ireland  abortion laws will be handed down a week today. It couldn’t  come soon enough for the PSNI  who had to handle a demo outside Laganside Courthouse when some women  were said to have taken abortion pills. Just one other reflection. The ubiquitous Alex Kane commends the smattering of self criticism in Arlene Foster’s  state of the Union speech in London last week. But he asks:

 Is too late? Have Foster and the DUP the foresight and courage to do what they must know needs to be done?

A small shift in attitude is nowhere near enough. This is like Kremlinology in the days of the Soviet Union when every word was parsed and construed for the tiniest shift of policy for a closed society. She should start by talking in specifics. Failure to do so means everybody else sets the agenda she is forced to react to.

By next week whatever the Supreme court rules, she should pledge a free and open vote in the Assembly on extending abortion reform to include foetal abnormality and cases of rape and incest.  The DUP could risk it; there’s s no guarantee it would actually pass. How  could Sinn Fein, those stout defenders of women’s rights, fail to join them?

 

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London