Thank you to those who contacted me regarding attending the panel event with Fiona Bruce on abortion in Northern Ireland. Abortion remains a highly sensitive issue, regardless of where your view lies and one where it is important that the matter is considered with due care and sensitivity. I would also like to make clear that the Government’s policy is to allow a free vote on matters of conscience such as abortion.
I understand that the Irish referendum has undoubtedly reinvigorated debate within Northern Ireland, but it is important not to react without careful consideration. Repealing sections 58 and 59 of the Offences Against the Persons Act 1861 will not solve the issue, as without any new provisions it offers no safeguards for women, and would impact on England and Wales, as well as Northern Ireland. I also believe that this would go further than the current debate in Northern Ireland.
I support the Government’s belief that any future reform in Northern Ireland must be debated and decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their locally-elected politicians. This has been the position of successive Governments, both Conservative and Labour. I very much welcome therefore the Secretary of State’s recent commitment to work closely with Northern Ireland’s political parties to restore strong, inclusive devolved government at the earliest opportunity.
Unfortunately, due to prior diary commitments I was unable to attend the event on 18th July.