Imposing abortion laws on Northern Ireland from Westminster belies claims to support democracy

MPs yesterday debated extending the abortion law in Northern Ireland. You can read the Guardian report here. It was interesting that the entire article was given over to pro-choice voices, save for this short reference to Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s chief whip:

However, DUP chief whip Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said 100,000 people were alive in Northern Ireland because it was exempt from the 1967 act. “I am proud of that pro-life position, I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and of the unborn child and we will maintain that position.”

I shan’t repeat myself here. I have outlined why I do not think the Westminster parliament should impose English abortion laws onto Northern Ireland. You can read those comments here and here.

Maria Miller is quoted as having claimed, ‘The fact that the same rights are not available to one in four parts of the UK is difficult to understand’. Only the reasons are manifestly simple. It would be a contravention of the democratic rights of the Northern Irish people and would undercut both the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements. Considering that so many are quick to point out that a hard border resulting from Brexit would undermine the Good Friday Agreement and, they not so subtly imply, would lead to a breakdown in the peace, it is curious that many don’t seem nearly so bothered about undermining the agreements or the peace in respect to abortion. Interesting.

Apparently, those intent on undermining the 52% who wanted Brexit – by using Northern Ireland as the means to delay it – are similarly happy to undermine the 97% who responded to the consultation on abortion in Ulster and determined they wished the existing law to be retained. The arguments advanced for sticking up for the 48% who did not vote for Brexit sound remarkably hollow when they are willing to overrule the 97% who rejected liberalisation of the abortion law in favour of the 3% bothered about changing it. The only conclusion we can draw, surely, is that they do not give two hoots about democracy. The will of the people is merely a thing to be noted, and only heeded, when they are in agreement with the ruling elites.

The insistence on bringing abortion to Northern Ireland – despite the overwhelming numbers that reject the move in the region – is breathtaking in its arrogance. It is a remarkably colonial attitude coming from those who would most staunchly decry imperialism. It also brings into sharp relief the claims of those seeking to add votes upon votes in the Brexit process. If they won’t even listen to 97% of a regional population – still insisting parliament should impose its will on them – are we really convinced they are bothered about defending the 48% purely because the Brexit vote was close? Are they really concerned about the democratic process? Surely now, even those inclined to believe it must admit that there is nothing but a refusal to accept that our leaders are out of touch with the voters and hold them in nothing but contempt.

Just remember this next time they ask you to vote on something. Your vote will be deemed advisory. Any consultation will be noted and then ignored if it does not chime with their predetermined view. They are offering the appearance of democracy whilst blithely continuing to do whatever they please. Of course, the Northern Irish are famously known for their respect for law-makers and being told what to do from Westminster. No doubt this will end brilliantly.