The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has welcomed legislation from the UK parliament in Westminster to legalise same-sex marriage and access to abortion to Northern Ireland.
USI tweeted a statement this morning from their president Lorna Fitzpatrick, saying: “We cautiously welcome the legislation marriage equality & decrim[sic] abortion services in NI.”
Fitzpatrick did however state that the legislation is “conditional”, referring to the fact that this legislation will only cause a change in the law if the Northern Ireland Assembly is not restored by October.
Fitzpatrick stated that “students deserve the right to [marriage equality and access to abortion] & a working Gov all at once”, adding: “The fight is not over, not until we have all three”.
Students in Northern Ireland are jointly represented by both the British and Irish national student unions, the National Union of Students (NUS) and USI respectively. The two unions form a joint organisation in Northern Ireland, NUS-USI.
NUS-USI issued a statement saying that “in the absence of the Assembly, it is right that Westminster deliver on these issues, to ensure NI can be on par with our counterparts in the UK and the Republic of Ireland”.
The organisation, however, continues to support the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly with NUS-USI president Robert Murtagh stating: “We need a devolved, working Government in Northern Ireland. Equally, we need marriage equality and free, safe and legal abortion services. We want both as a matter of urgency. It’s what the students and young people here deserve.”
The new provisions for Northern Ireland were introduced by amendments to a government bill to further delay elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The first amendment, on same-sex marriage, was introduced by the Labour MP Conor McGinn. Originally from Armagh in Northern Ireland, McGinn now represents the English constituency of St Helens North. McGinns amendment was passed by MPs by a vote of 383 to 73.
Shortly after, MPs votes to accept an amendment proposed by Labour MP Stella Creasy, to extend abortion rights to Northern Ireland. Creasy’s amendment was passed by 332 votes to 99.
Creasy argued that the current situation in Northern Ireland, where women could face prison for getting an abortion was contrary to international human rights norms.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) argue that this legislation undermines the devolution arrangement of local government in Northern Ireland.
Sir Jeffrey Mark Donaldson, the DUP MP for Lagan Valley said: “We believe the purpose of devolution is to allow the different parts of the UK to make laws that are appropriate for that part of the country.”
The DUP, along with a number of Conservstive MPs voted against both amendments.