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Northern Ireland church leaders raise concerns over amendments that could allow same-sex marriage and abortion

The Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill being debated in parliament on Tuesday could pave the way for huge changes in Northern Ireland.

Amendments have been added to a bill that is designed to restore the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont, which has not been functioning properly since 2017.

MP Conor McGinn's amendment on same-sex marriage has been selected by the deputy speaker Eleanor Liang, as has MP Stella Creasy's on abortion.

 

 

Rev Trevor Gribben, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, told Premier: "Well basically the amendments that are going to be debated and voted upon today in the House of Commons are in practice seeking to undermine the devolution and the devolved settlement in North Ireland. They're an attempt to force through fairly radical changes, particularly with regard to abortion. One MP recently has said that this is damaging, opportunistic and anti-democratic and I totally agree with that."

Many argue that Northern Ireland's laws on marriage and abortion should be brought in line with the rest of the UK's. Christian and gay MP Stephen Doughty put his name to the same-sex marriage amendment, which states that plans must be made to introduce same-sex marriage unless their assembly starts functioning again before 21st October. 

The Church of Ireland's Rt Revd Dr Kenneth Kearon, Bishop of Limerick and Killaloe, and Chair of the Church and Society Commission said: "While the absence of an Assembly is very regrettable, it is equally regrettable that MPs at Westminster are seeking to use the opportunity to introduce Northern Ireland-specific legislation on two of the most controversial issues facing the Province today."

Regarding abortion he said: "The tradition of the Church of Ireland would reject an unrestricted access to abortion, while being concerned to ensure provision for hopefully rare circumstances and in a secure medical setting. Where individuals draw such a line will inevitably differ. Instances where the life of the woman is at serious risk have long been regarded within Church of Ireland teaching as situations where termination of a pregnancy would be justifiable."

"With respect to same-sex relationships, we have stated that 'the Church of Ireland defines marriage as between a man and a woman. The church has often existed, in history, with different views from those adopted by the state, and has sought to live with both conviction and good relationships with the civil authorities and communities in which it is set."

 

  

Click here to listen to Reverend Doctor David Clements from the Methodist Church speaking to Ruth Sax on Premier's News Hour: 

 

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