TWO of the most prominent figures in Northern Irish affairs — the former Archbishop of Armagh, Lord Eames, and the first Police Ombudsman in the province, Baroness Nuala O’Loan — have accused the Westminster government of “treating the people of Northern Ireland with contempt”, after the announcement that abortion and same-sex marriage would be introduced by the Government if the Stormont Assembly was not reinstated by 21 October (News, 12 July).
In an open letter to the Prime Minister, they call on her to halt the Northern Ireland Bill as it now stands, or amend it, so that it cannot pass without the majority agreement of Assembly members.
The letter says that the legislation, as it stands, could have serious implications for a successful reinstatement of the Assembly. “It has the capacity to undermine the delicate political calibration between Northern Ireland and Westminster and to cause significant damage to attempts to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly,” it states.
Noting that none of the MPs who voted for the Bill came from constituencies in the province, Baroness O’Loan said on Monday that the subjects of the Bill were among other issues that formed part of negotiations for a restoration of the Assembly, and that introducing a Bill at such a delicate time could threaten the talks.
The anti-abortion group Both Lives Matter said that 10,000 people had endorsed the letter at the weekend.
The former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble, who repeatedly voted in opposition to the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, said last week that he had “acquiesced to it”, after his elder daughter, Vicky, married her girlfriend, Rosalind Stephens, in Scotland two years ago.
Speaking in the House of Lords last week, Lord Trimble said: “I have found myself taking a particular position with regard to same-sex marriage, which was forced upon me when my elder daughter got married to her girlfriend.
“I cannot change that, and I cannot now go around saying that I am opposed to it, because I acquiesced to it. There we are.”