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16 November 2018updated 09 Sep 2021 5:08pm

Why the DUP’s insistence that Northern Ireland must cleave to the UK doesn’t stand up

When it comes to social issues, British and Irish citizens in Northern Ireland are being denied what is available in the rest of the United Kingdom.

By Amanda Ferguson

The DUP insists that Northern Ireland must not be treated differently to the rest of the United Kingdom when it comes to Brexit. But divergence does not appear to matter when applied to same sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights for British and Irish citizens in Northern Ireland.

DUP MPs will repeat ad nauseam that Northern Ireland must not be hived off, carved off, cut off, treated differently to Scotland, England and Wales in Brexit. Yet Northern Ireland is already treated differently on a range of issues including alcohol and gambling licensing; when it comes to protection for language rights; not to mention the DUP expressing a desire for deviations in air passenger duty and corporation tax.

The DUP regularly uses the airwaves to tell the public of the influence it has through the confidence and supply agreement with the Tories at Westminster and of how it is ”delivering for everyone” in Northern Ireland. But scratch the surface and it easy to demonstrate this is simply not the case, not least when you look at how “social issues” are dealt with.

Yes, there has been a cash injection from the £1bn deal agreed with the Tories in exchange for votes after last year’s Westminster election, but if you are in a same sex relationship and want to marry the love of your life this cannot happen in Northern Ireland.In this regard, it is not as British as Finchley.

In Scotland, England, Wales and the Republic of Ireland same sex couples can get married. In Northern Ireland they cannot. It is a place apart. Different.

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Motions on marriage equality came before the Stormont Assembly on five occasions prior to its collapse in January 2017. The last vote to take place was in favour of extending civil marriage rights to the LGBT community but this was vetoed by the DUP using the petition of concern blocking mechanism.

When a woman from Northern Ireland requires an abortion this is only permitted if her life is at risk or there is risk to her mental or physical health that is long term or permanent. Having a termination because you do not wish to be pregnant is not an option. Pregnancy involving rape, incest and fatal foetal abnormality (FFA) are not circumstances in which abortions can be performed legally, so women are compelled to continue with the pregnancy; they have to travel to Britain for an abortion; or they can risk prosecution by ordering abortion pills online and end their pregnancy without medical supervision.

Once the Republic of Ireland introduces its new abortion law next year Northern Ireland will again find itself a place apart on these islands. Different.

So, is the DUP “delivering for everyone”? Ask the lesbian couple who want to get married if they feel the DUP is delivering for them. Ask the woman pregnant through rape who cannot travel to England for an abortion because she is in a coercive relationship and has caring responsibilities if she feels the DUP is delivering for her.

The British government is also found wanting in this regard. Has it been prioritising power and the confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP at Westminster over helping some of the most vulnerable people in Northern Ireland?

It is simply unsustainable that British and Irish citizens in Northern Ireland are denied what is available in the rest of the United Kingdom. Equal civil same sex marriage and women’s reproductive rights will eventually be a reality in Northern Ireland. It is just a question of how many more people will suffer before it happens.

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