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For how long can democracy be suspended in Northern Ireland?

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1285250.  Mon May 28, 2018 8:12 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
In any case, the law may soon have to be changed for reasons unconnected with the Irish referendum. Last year the Northern Ireland Human Rights Committee brought a case before the Supreme Court arguing that current legislation is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights, and a ruling is expected within the next few weeks. If it goes in the NIHRC's favour, the UK will be required to introduce appropriate legislation.

This worries me. Mrs May has made it fairly plain that she doesn't agree with the DUP's ultra-conservative stances on social issues, and has made it equally plain that she will not allow the DUP to try and impose those stances on the rest of the UK. (Justine Greening probably wasn't the only person who raised this with Mrs May as a concern, but she was the one who talked about it. Since she accepted a Cabinet post nonetheless, she must have received a suitably reassuring answer.)

At the same time, she has made it equally plain that her government will not force the DUP to change its stances within Northern Ireland. The DUP quite simply won't allow any change to Northern Ireland's abortion laws, and Mrs May can't impose one (and wouldn't even if she could).

We shall get to the sort of impasse that we have about people in prison voting. I just hope that the government doesn't try to use it as another excuse to withdraw from the ECHR.

1285256.  Mon May 28, 2018 10:48 am Reply with quote

I saw a suggestion that a referendum be held in NI to ascertain public opinion on this issue, matching the recent referendum in the Republic. While this would obviously not be legally binding on the government (as, let us remind ourselves, the Brexit referendum was said not to be legally binding), a vote on the scale of the one in the Republic to liberalize abortion laws in NI must surely affect actions by the Parliament in Westminster.

1285262.  Mon May 28, 2018 11:35 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:

Not from a legal point of view, but when it becomes possible for women from Northern Ireland to travel south of the border to have abortions the existing law will effectively become unworkable.

There has been no reason why a woman in, say Belfast, could not go to, say, Liverpool for an abortion since 1967, other than the ability to pay for the travel.

1285504.  Thu May 31, 2018 4:53 am Reply with quote

GuyBarry wrote:
And so how are you going to solve the current problem?

One solution they could try is direct rule from Westminster, just to see how Sinn Féin react.

In the wake of the repeal of Ireland's 8th amendment, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has gone on record as being in favour of unity in abortion laws across the island of Ireland. It seems unlikely that this would happen while the DUP are still pulling the strings north of the border, so the quickest way of implementing this would be for Westminster to impose their will on the 6 counties of Ulster.

I'd be interested to see how Sinn Féin would react to achieving what they want to achieve in the one way they wouldn't want to achieve it. Though, having said that, it would probably involve a lot of explosions, so maybe not the best political strategy.

1285520.  Thu May 31, 2018 7:13 am Reply with quote

dr.bob wrote:
The quickest way of implementing this would be for Westminster to impose their will on the 6 counties of Ulster.

There is a bit of a constitutional debate going on at the moment as whether this is possible, even if Mrs May chose to do it. (Which she has already said that she won't, possible or not.)

The declared position of the government (and of the DUP, quelle surprise) is that abortion is a Health matter. As such it is devolved, and so Westminster cannot override Stormont.

Or rather, it can if it really really really wants to, but there would be uproar and commotion. As yet it hasn't been done since the devolved administrations were created, but it looks as if the government is going to have to try it with the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, since the said Bill was voted down by the Scottish Parliament. Once will be messy, twice seems highly unlikely.

But Labour considers that abortion is a human rights matter, which would make it the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Office. If it's that, then Westminster can override Stormont. Karen Bradley is on record as saying that she could use this route to force Northern Ireland to have same sex marriage, much as she isn't planning to do it, so the government clearly does not dispute the principle.

Thirteen Conservative MPs have let it be known that they support Labour's view of the position, which means that if the government allowed a free vote on the matter it might conceivably lose. That is rather why the government doesn't want to have such a vote, although it would in any case probably be for the courts to decide on the jurisdiction issue.

1286190.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 6:09 am Reply with quote

Well the Supreme Court has rejected the appeal, despite ruling by a majority that Northern Ireland's abortion law is not compatible with human rights:

The rejection was on the technical issue that the NIHRC had no right to bring the case. If it had been brought by a woman who was pregnant as a result of sexual crime or who was carrying a foetus with a fatal abnormality, it appears that the appeal would have been upheld.

Does this strike anyone else as a very odd decision? The NIHRC would presumably have taken legal advice before bringing the case. How can it have got all the way to the Supreme Court if they had no right to bring it in the first place?

1286202.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 8:38 am Reply with quote

I think that's called 'grasping at straws' isn't it?

Alexander Howard
1286210.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 9:05 am Reply with quote

Was the baby represented in court?

1286218.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 10:52 am Reply with quote

Something mentioned by Stella Creasy in advance of the recent debate over the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act - the legislation that still governs abortion in Northern Ireland. If a woman in Northern Ireland is raped, becomes pregnant, and has an abortion, she will potentially face a longer prison sentence for having an abortion than her attacker will face for raping her.

1286222.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:22 am Reply with quote

You can't make this shit up.

1286233.  Thu Jun 07, 2018 11:53 am Reply with quote

I have seriously heard it suggested that some Unionists in Northern Ireland are now considering supporting a united Ireland as the best way out of the impasse over Brexit, the impasse over abortion and the impasse over the Assembly. They may well be right.

1294052.  Tue Aug 28, 2018 3:49 am Reply with quote

Northern Ireland has now equalled Belgium's record of 589 days for the longest period without an elected government - but, since it's not a sovereign state, it won't be entering the record books:

A series of protests called "We Deserve Better" has been organized to mark the occasion.

1317748.  Tue Mar 26, 2019 12:44 pm Reply with quote

I knew it would only be a matter of time before this issue collided with the Brexit issue:

The head of the senior civil servants’ union has said direct rule will be necessary in Northern Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Dave Penman, the general secretary of the FDA, said public sector employees in the province could not be expected to make increasingly political decisions with major security and economic implications if the UK crashed out of Europe.

His words follow Theresa May’s comments on Monday, when she told the House of Commons that “some direct application of powers” might have to be imposed on Northern Ireland in a no-deal scenario.

Penman, whose members include dozens of permanent secretaries across Whitehall and Belfast, said: “The prime minister has confirmed what should have been patently obvious to any politician in Northern Ireland. A no-deal Brexit will require decision-making of such magnitude that only an elected politician should be responsible.

Could the Northern Ireland Civil Service end up going on strike in the event of a no-deal Brexit?


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