Welcome progress – but much still to do

Time to step up the pressure on Sinn Fein and the DUP

The prospect of significant changes to the laws on same sex marriage and abortion legislation in Northern Ireland are to be welcomed. 

Votes in the House of  Commons this afternoon amended the bill on extending the  deferral of  new Assembly elections until at least the  autumn, to include caveats which mean that unless an  Executive is formed by October 21 this year that  legislation on same sex marriage and changes to the  abortion laws in Northern Ireland would be  enacted.

This is progress but not as  we envisaged it.

It would be much better, politically and  socially, if these advances had been introduced and adopted  by a functioning Assembly. Two and a half years after Sinn  Fein collapsed the Executive that looked, and remains, a very remote possibility.

The difficulty with this  legislation being enacted through Westminster, welcome as  the outcomes are, means that ‘creeping direct rule‘  gains a stronger hold and the incentive for Sinn Fein, in  particular,  to thwart a return to devolution  here is strengthened.

Perhaps now is the time for  all social, cultural, civic and political groups in Northern Ireland to step up the pressure on the DUP and Sinn  Fein to restore an Executive  to debate the  economy, integrated secular education, health, housing, workers  rights, welfare reform, the growing  demand on food banks, in a local Assembly without the need for Westminster to intervene.

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