Varadkar calls for North's government to be rebuilt to allow for abortion vote

By Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Elaine Loughlin

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has urged pro-choice parties in Northern Ireland to come together and help rebuild the devolved government to ensure the province can vote on the future of its abortion laws.

In a high-profile move, the seven-strong UK supreme court said the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission had no legal reason to challenge the current laws.

However, the majority of the supreme court panel also said the existing laws are at odds with European laws on cases of rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormalities, and as such need to be re-examined.

Speaking at an event in Dublin, Mr Varadkar declined to comment specifically on the UK supreme court ruling.

However, in a clear reference to the case, he said if the devolved Assembly government is rebuilt it would allow people in Northern Ireland to have their say on the matter.

I think that's something that should be decided by the people who live in Northern Ireland.

"Ultimately if we had an assembly or an executive up and running that could be determined and you could have a vote in the Assembly and a decision in the Executive.

"It really emphasises more and more why it's so important that we have the institutions up and running again in Northern Ireland," Mr Varadkar said.

Speaking at a separate event, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said "the truth is the issue of the abortion law in Northern Ireland has to be addressed".

Saying "we all live on this island and it's a single island", Ms McDonald said she would be in favour of new rules in Northern Ireland that would allow for abortion "legislation applicable in the south and north", saying:

It doesn't really make sense to have two different legislative regimes on such a small island.

Meanwhile, the HSE said yesterday the number of Irish women using British addresses to access UK abortion services has fallen from 3,265 in 2016 to 3,091 last year.

The pro-life Love Both campaign said the figures show pro-choice groups have "exaggerated" the number of women accessing services.

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