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.