At midnight on Monday 21st October, Northern Ireland campaigners rejoiced as legislation was passed by MPs in Westminster making abortion and same-sex marriage legal.
After the first meeting in three years was held at Stormont on Monday, anti-abortion groups led by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) attempted to block this movement. However, a new speaker could not be elected on a cross-community basis, and as a result, they failed.
Northern Ireland have been given until 30th March 2020 to finalise new regulations for free and legal abortion services. Police are now no longer able to investigate cases of abortion in Northern Ireland, even if they were ongoing before it was decriminalised.
For same-sex marriages, the government must bring in legislation by 13th January 2020. Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith has declared “This means, at the latest, the first civil same-sex marriages will take place on the week of Valentine’s Day 2020.” Northern Ireland was the last country in the UK to not support same-sex marriage. Making it legal in Ireland has meant that it is now legal across the whole of the UK.
Catholic Bishops across Northern Ireland are calling Monday a “tragic day” for unborn children, and an even sadder day for democracy. However, campaigners still rejoice in what they consider a step forward for the country.