North's church leaders call for Stormont to decide abortion law

The North's main church leaders today wrote to all MPs at Westminster backing local politicians in their drive for the Assembly to decide abortion laws.
The Stormont Assembly

The North's main church leaders today wrote to all MPs at Westminster backing local politicians in their drive for the Assembly to decide abortion laws.

At the moment it is for MPs not MLAs to determine the law.

Catholic primate, Cardinal Sean Brady, Church of Ireland primate, Archbishop Alan Harper, Methodist President, the Rev Roy Cooper and Presbyterian Moderator Rev John Finlay, banded together to support the four main party leaders on abortion.

In their letter, the churchmen said they wished to support the party leaders in their assertion the law on abortion in the North should be a matter for the Assembly.

"We feel it is important for the government to respect the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland and allow locally elected MLAs to take the lead on this issue."

They said it was especially right they should in the light of the Assembly abortion debate last October when all parties expressed their opposition to the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act to the North.

The church leaders said: "We would ask that, on this issue, MPs take account of the Northern Ireland political parties, and indeed of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against any amendments concerning abortion legislation in Northern Ireland."

Last year, they said, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland indicated he felt the Assembly was the best forum for discussion of the issue locally.

"We wholeheartedly agree with this position and ask that you make every effort to ensure that any future changes to the law on abortion in Northern Ireland are solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly," the churchmen wrote to MPs.

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