The Christian Institute has described MPs’ decision to impose abortion and same-sex marriage on Northern Ireland as “tragic”.
During committee stage of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill yesterday, MPs voted by 383 to 73 on same-sex marriage and 332 to 99 on abortion. The Bill now goes to the House of Lords. The changes will come into effect if there is no devolved government in place by 21 October.
Addressing the liberalisation of abortion, Northern Ireland Officer Callum Webster, said: “Northern Ireland values the lives of women and the unborn. 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. Today, around 98 per cent are carried out for social reasons.
“It is tragic that MPs from outside Northern Ireland actually cheered the passing of this legislation. The public there will be appalled at how devolution has been so swiftly ditched to force through the agenda of the Westminster elite.”
Among the MPs to back the imposition were SNP politicians. Senior figures from the Party said devolution was an important principle, but still supported overruling the Northern Ireland Assembly.
Neither candidate for Conservative Party leader voted yesterday, but other leading Conservatives – including Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt and Amber Rudd – backed the plans. Theresa May abstained on both issues.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn voted for both amendments, with the Party’s Stella Creasy and Conor McGinn spearheading the campaigns.
However, all but one of Northern Ireland’s MPs voted against both the changes. Nigel Dodds MP said they drove “coach and horses through the principle of devolution”.
Freedom of speech
On the issue of same-sex marriage, Colin Hart, The Christian Institute’s Director, said the speed of the change means there has been “no consultation and no consideration given on how to protect those who respectfully disagree”.
“When marriage was redefined in the rest of the United Kingdom, this was done so in the face of overwhelming public opposition. But at least it was done following detailed consideration over many months. That time and public pressure ensured there were some free speech safeguards.
“There is a whole host of legislation that needs to change. Free speech protections that have been won over many years must be put in place in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “In the education sphere, both the Department for Education and the Equality and Human Rights Commission issued guidance that helped to protect teachers who dissent from supporting same-sex marriage.
“More widely, Public Order legislation allows the freedom to express views without fear of prosecution. There is freedom to disagree. In forcing this legislation through MPs are demonstrating their ignorance of the lessons learned from the rest of the UK”, he added.
Mr Hart concluded: “Without these protections what can the thousands of people in Northern Ireland who oppose same-sex marriage expect?
“They have seen how the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland went out of its way to hound Ashers Baking Company through the courts. They were restrained by the UK Supreme Court, but only after a four-year legal battle.
“Such a poorly thought through piece of legislation is in danger of giving them free rein to cause trouble for a lot more ordinary people.”