Abortion law: Alliance MLAs ‘will not attend Stormont charade’

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109304008 1stormont2 - Abortion law: Alliance MLAs 'will not attend Stormont charade'

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MLAs are due to gather in the assembly chamber at midday on Monday

The Alliance Party has said its MLAs will not attend a sitting of the Northern Ireland Assembly on Monday.

The recall was proposed in an attempt to stop a reform of Northern Ireland’s abortion law.

The sitting on Monday was triggered after a petition collected the necessary 30 signatures from MLAs.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said the sitting was a “political stunt” that would “increase acrimony” between the political parties at Stormont.

It would “bring the chamber further into disrepute”, she added.

Laws on abortion and same-sex marriage are due to change unless devolved government is restored by Monday.

But the recall of the Stormont assembly will not affect the impending law changes as it would need a Northern Ireland Executive to be appointed too.

The power-sharing government collapsed in 2017 and MPs in the House of Commons have since passed some key legislation for Northern Ireland.

‘Recall a shameful pantomime’

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) have said their MLAs will attend the sitting, while the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) leader Jim Allister will also take his seat.

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PA Media

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Naomi Long said the recall of the assembly would increase tension between parties

Sinn Féin’s vice-president Michelle O’Neill said MLAs from her party would not be present, adding: “We all know this is not real… this is not about resolving an issue.”

The SDLP MLA Daniel McCrossan, who opposes abortion, will be in the chamber in spite of his party leader Colum Eastwood describing the recall as “a total stunt”.

It is understood other SDLP may also attend.

Mrs Long said the DUP’s support for the recall was to “create the illusion” that the party was trying to block the reform of abortion laws.

She said her party believed it was “not appropriate to treat a serious issue with profound consequences in such a cynical matter and we want nothing to do with such a charade”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday News, the Green Party leader Clare Bailey said it was a “shameful pantomime” and that she would not enter the chamber.

Proceedings in the assembly chamber are due to begin at 12:00 BST.

It is not clear if MLAs will be able to debate the abortion law changes as they first have to elect a speaker with cross-community support.

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