Arlene Foster, the head of the DUP, has said that now the Assembly is back and running, they needed to have their voice heard on same-sex marriage and abortion rights “because it will be a very different voice to what has been imposed on us from Westminster”.
Speaking on ITV, Arlene Foster said that same-sex marriage had been imposed on Northern Ireland and that with the first ceremonies due to take place after February 10, “What we need to ensure now is the same safeguards for those people who don’t want to engage in those issues – from a church point of view…The Secretary of State says that is the case and we very much hope that is the case.”
Foster also had strong views on the introduction of abortion rights, saying “It should have very much been left to the Northern Ireland Assembly to deal with these issues. It was imposed upon us. There is unanimity across the chamber in regard to the fact that currently we have a position were abortions are available up to 27 weeks, which is totally unacceptable.
“There will be some argument about where that should come back to. I think everybody in Northern Ireland recognises that that is not a sustainable position.”
In July last year, Parliament voted to pass the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation, etc) Act, which obliged the Government to act if the devolved Northern Ireland Executive had not been re-established by October 21 2019. This led to the long awaited introduction of abortion rights and same-sex marriage – which the DUP had continually blocked through their Petition of Concern. This was despite a poll in 2015 by Amnesty International showing that 68% of those in Northern Ireland supported same-sex marriage. Which begs the question – who was having a decision imposed on them by whom?
Elsewhere in the interview, Foster was asked if the DUP regretted not making a deal on Brexit with Theresa May now that Boris Johnson’s withdrawal agreement was coming into play. She responded, “That is really akin to saying ‘would you like a broken arm, or a broken leg’, because of course both deals were bad for Northern Ireland.
“We are now having to deal with the issues around Boris’s deal, Boris’s withdrawal agreement. Of course, those are very clear issues and the Northern Ireland Assembly sent a very clear message around that earlier this week.”
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