Fast-tracked “back door regulations” to impose abortion and same-sex marriage are “disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland”, MPs have been warned.
The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill was rushed through its Parliamentary stages this week, with both MPs and Peers debating the legislation.
Support for amendments on same-sex marriage and abortion mean the radical changes will be imposed unless the Northern Ireland Executive returns.
In the House of Lords on Wednesday, Lord Morrow attempted to introduce safeguards for free speech and religious freedom. He said same-sex marriage legislation in England and Wales included protections but these were not in place for Northern Ireland.
“We must make sure that the religious liberties of the people of Northern Ireland are definitely protected, that there is no room for ambiguity and that it is not merely discretionary for the Government to act.
“We must make sure that those protections are not less than those enjoyed by the citizens of other regions of the United Kingdom.”
Peers rejected his amendment.
On Thursday, when MPs again considered the legislation, Nigel Dodds of the Democratic Unionist Party said normal practice on consultation and devolution was being ignored. The Bill, he said, was being “hijacked”.
…derisory one hour’s debate
Conservative MP Fiona Bruce agreed, saying the way the issues had been handled was “unconstitutional, undemocratic, legally incoherent and utterly disrespectful to the people of Northern Ireland”.
She criticised the Government for pressing ahead “with just a derisory one hour’s debate”.
Director of The Christian Institute, Colin Hart, said: “As it stands, same-sex marriage ‘must’ be imposed on Northern Ireland.
“But there’s no such requirement to protect those who disagree.
“Seismic cultural changes are being pushed through by back door regulations.”
Callum Webster, the Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, added: “An estimated 100,000 lives have been saved in the Province precisely because of its good laws on abortion.
“In contrast, in England, Scotland and Wales there have been almost nine million abortions since the 1967 Abortion Act came into force.
“It is tragic that Parliamentarians from outside Northern Ireland have pushed this through.”