UK Secretary of State Brandon Lewis champions liberal reform to save the Union and throws down the gauntlet to the DUP

This just could be significant.   In the Sunday Times, the emergence of a pro Union liberal reform strategy acceptable across the community from the British government. It appears  to remove the last vestige  of the UK government dancing to the DUP’s tune. At  the most sensitive moment imaginable, just before  Edwin Poots nominates a still unknown First Minister, Brandon Lewis  presents a frontal challenge to the DUP.  This has been simmering for some time but I never thought it would …

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From abortion to coronavirus, Westminster rule is still decisive – if they choose to exercise it

The situation is replete with irony.   In the absence of the Assembly a formerly inert Westminster sprung into life to enact three controversial reforms; on same sex marriage, victims’ pensions (pending) and most controversially of all, abortion. Sinn Fein which only acknowledges any legal British authority over Northern Ireland with the greatest reluctance warmly welcomed Westminster’s imposition of the most radical shift possible from the most restrictive to the most sweeping abortion regulations in these islands; while the defenders of …

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Change Is Coming, And The DUP Can’t Do Anything About It…

It still doesn’t feel real, the prospect that marriage equality and abortion reform will become legal realities on Monday the 21st October, but here we are. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch but as someone who has been at the forefront of the marriage equality campaign for the guts of a decade, it’s strange to see the culmination of the work you’ve been doing with fellow travellers for the last eight years come to fruition. I remember that …

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The imminence of direct rule underlines the fact that the SDLP are wrong not to back Margaret Ritchie as a member of the House of Lords

The SDLP still haven’t managed to shake off  strategic ineptitude. They’ve   achieved the worst of both worlds by wishing former SDLP leader and MP Margaret Ritchie well but “ fundamentally disagree” with her decision to go to the Lords. This is in fact an enlightened  move by Margaret which deserves SDLP backing. The SDLP attack Sinn Fein for persisting with abstention from the Commons when their voting presence might have made a difference in narrower Brexit votes.  The absence of …

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Individual conscience may make implementing abortion reform as controversial as deciding on the principle

From the Asher’s case to abortion, individual conscience and the prerogatives of devolution greatly complicate reform beyond a straightforward appeal to human rights. Secretary of state Karen Bradley has been attacked for hypocrisy over personally supporting abortion reform while resting on her belief that the Northern Ireland public overwhelmingly support action by a Stormont that is non-sitting and in which there probably isn’t a majority in favour of reform anyway. She knows resting on constitutional propriety gets her off even …

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Arlene Foster challenges Sinn Fein to debate abortion reform in the Assembly, claiming SF support for DUP stance

Arlene Foster says some Sinn Fein supporters have told her they will vote DUP because of her party’s position on abortion. In her first interview since Ireland’s referendum on the issue, she told Sky News a lot of people were feeling “disenfranchised” by the result. “I have had emails from Nationalists and Republicans in Northern Ireland not quite believing what is going on and saying they will be voting for the DUP because they believe we are the only party …

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Senior Conservatives are willing to defy the DUP over abortion

Perhaps the abortion issue is emerging as a new category which breaks the  rules of  conventional political wisdom.  As far as Westminster is concerned, It seems the last word has not been spoken by Theresa May. This is a devolved matter. Our focus is restoring a democratically accountable devolved government in Northern Ireland so that locally accountable politicians can make decisions on behalf of the public they represent.” It is not only Stella Creasy and mainly Labour colleagues that are …

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Do Labour MP Stella Creasy and friends have the knowledge and stamina to progress abortion reform against the odds?

You thought it had gone quiet? Not if Stella Creasy can help it.  Repealing the nineteenth century Act which ultimately banned abortion and is still on the statute book, would be a route to broadening the scope of abortion regulations in Northern Ireland. So claims Ms Creasy the Labour MP who is championing the cause at Westminster. She has set out her stall not only in the Times but the Guardian. The repeal of the 1861 Offences against the Person …

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And there could be more dosh to come! But the government rejects demands from a chorus of women MPs to fund abortions for NI women

The payout could be higher as a result of studies of the impact of lower corporation tax and scrapping air passenger duty.  In its financial analysis the FT points out that Costs will be higher if the renewed commitment to allow Northern Ireland to set its own lower corporation tax rate and air passenger duty results in lost revenues to the UK exchequer. The DUP has confirmed to the Guardian that they will seek assurances that the block grant will …

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UK Supreme Court rules narrowly against free abortions in England for Northern Ireland women. But in Scotland?

Support for abortion reform in Northern Ireland becomes all the more relevant after the decision of the Supreme Court last Wednesday narrowly to reject the appeal against  Jeremy Hunt the Health Secretary for England,  refusing to exercise his discretion to allow  women from Northern Ireland to have abortions free of charge on the NHS  in England. A triumph of democracy, opponents would say. From the Guardian report   The judges were ruling on the case of a woman identified only …

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The republic is pointing the way to solving the health care crisis throughout the island

  Here I join Mick in commending Newton Emerson for  giving a new twist to a familiar theme.   He describes a linkage between a  religious  ethos north and south and a lack of resources not due to funding alone, that stands in the way of  providing a better health service. In the republic a partial solution has been reached for transferring the National Maternity Hospital to a new 300m euro building on the St Vincent’s Hospital campus. The governing …

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A win for the clinical independence of the maternity hospital but a new battle royal looms over abortion

Brian WalkerFormer 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

Advance on abortion law reform and the treatment of women generally is now inevitable in the Republic. But will it go the whole way?

For readers catching up, the Times (£) has a good pull together on the prospects of seismic change to the Republic’s abortion law. In a series of votes over the weekend, the citizens’ assembly, set up to consider the issue, recommended that abortion should be available up to 12 weeks after conception “with no restriction as to reason”. The vote for change was overwhelming, by 52 to 29. The Irish Times passes a qualified verdict Despite the recommendation from the …

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