At midnight tonight same-sex marriage will be legalised and abortion will finally become decriminalised in Northern Ireland.
The complete U-turn in law comes as a result of backbench MPs tabling amendments to a routine Commons Bill on the governance of Northern Ireland.
Labour MP Conor McGinn, who hails from County Armagh, proposed that Westminster legislate for same-sex marriage.
Fellow Labour MP Stella Creasy then proposed the decriminalisation of abortion, and fortunately, both amendments were met with significant majorities.
This meant that unless the Northern Ireland Assembly had been restored by midnight today, same-sex marriage and abortion would be decriminalised.
Social choice campaigners have hailed the shift in law ‘a watershed moment,’ which will bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
However, pro-life groups have argued the changes have come into practice without anyone in Northern Ireland being able to vote in favour or against them.
Some people urged the DUP to restore devolved government by compromising on Irish language legislation in a desperate bid to block the updated abortion law. However, this would have made it very difficult for Sinn Fein, which has always described itself as a pro-choice party, to resume power-sharing under those circumstances.
The DUP gained enough signatures for a recall of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday, but the party is unable to form a government without the support of a second party.
As a result, Stormont will sit for the first time in two-and-a-half years to protest the changes in law, however the sitting will be merely symbolic.
Sky News’ senior Ireland reporter David Blevins said:
Pro-choice groups say the DUP – who are arguing at Westminster for Northern Ireland to be treated the same as Great Britain on Brexit – will be arguing at Stormont for Northern Ireland to be treated differently on same-sex marriage and abortion.
But the DUP says some of those calling for a second vote on Brexit are now welcoming the fact that same-sex marriage and abortion are being introduced in Northern Ireland without any public vote at all.
Just last month, the High Court in Belfast ruled that the current anti-abortion laws in Northern Ireland are a direct breach of the UK’s commitment to human rights.
Abortion has always been illegal in the country, unless there is a risk to a woman’s life or risk of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.
The changes are a huge step in the right direction in terms of protecting Northern Ireland’s women and LGBTQ+ community.
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