Abortion and Devolution: The Conservative Party’s Abandonment of Northern Ireland

By Elizabeth Heverin

Like many conservatives in the last election, I had high hopes for this new Tory government. Telling myself that “Finally the conservative party is becoming conservative once again.”  But never have I been so wrong.

A main concern of mine was our relationship with Northern Ireland. In July last year 332 to 99 MPs voted in favour of abortion and gay marriage to be forced upon Northern Ireland. A decision that not only went against the interests of the Northern Irish people, but the union as well. This year the decision came into effect, arguably representing “one of the darkest days in Northern Ireland’s history.” In June, another vote took place and yet again MPs, this time with a conservative majority, approved the controversial abortion regulations opposed by Stormont by 253 to 136. 

 But why is this important to the Union you may ask? For anyone who understands Northern Ireland's history, acknowledges that it is a very religious place with a history of conflict. Afterall there is a reason why abortion was not forced upon Northern Ireland to begin with: there was and still is a pro-life majority. 

Research conducted by ‘Both Lives Matter’ found that an estimated 100,000 individuals in Northern Ireland are alive today who otherwise would not had been if the 1967 Abortion Act had been adopted. Alongside this, 64% of people in Northern Ireland according to a ComRes poll, think that abortion should be decided by Northern Ireland’s elected representatives, rising to 66% of women and 70% of 18 to 34-year olds.

Last year Boris Johnson promised that the issue of abortion would be “for the people of Northern Ireland and their politicians to decide.” However, it is clear now this was not true and is yet another example of the conservatives turning their backs on Northern Ireland once again. The conservatives claim to be unionists yet are so willing to force their liberal views onto Northern Ireland, knowing full well they oppose them. As Carla Lockhard rightfully pointed out “The will of the people of Northern Ireland has been ignored. The will of the Northern Ireland Assembly has been ignored.” 

Wherever your stance on the abortion debate is, pro-life or pro-choice, it does not matter. Any reasonable individual will understand that if the devolution settlement of Stormont is to be respected, the cross-community view against this extreme abortion framework must also be respected as well. Otherwise we may see a future in which Northern Ireland leaves the United Kingdom, a reality no conservative or unionist would ever want to witness.