Presbyterian Church disappointment at Westminster devolution snub

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has today expressed its disappointment and regret following votes in the House of Commons to amend the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill today (9 July), paving the way for liberalisation of abortion law and the introduction of same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

It has also called on the Government to clarify how it will respond to these amendments in terms of their implementation and what consultation will be undertaken within this short timeframe.

Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said, “While our Church’s position is that the laws on these sensitive issues should not be changed, we have said many times in recent years, that decisions on abortion and same sex marriage should remain the responsibility of our locally elected MLAs.

“We very much regret and are disappointed that parliamentary process has been used to bypass the devolution settlement agreed over 20 years ago.  There are many pressing issues to be dealt with in Northern Ireland, not least those affecting our schools, hospitals, social care and welfare systems. These affect the lives of many of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society, including the victims of our violent past. Political cherry-picking of issues by MPs, when talks to restore devolution to Northern Ireland are ongoing and should be encouraged, is both regrettable and unhelpful, running contrary to the spirit of devolution.

“The decisions made today raise many questions, not least how the Government intends to consult on these sensitive – and with regards to abortion complex – matters, if they remain unchanged in the final Act, and bring forward legislation within the limited timescale as required by these amendments. There are also serious implications for Northern Ireland’s already overstretched budget.”