A New Era in Northern Ireland
October 22, 2019 5:28 PM   Subscribe

Northern Ireland will legalize same-sex marriage and decriminalize abortion. Regulations for free local abortion services will be in place in Northern Ireland by March 31, 2020; same sex marriage licenses on January 13. While abortion was decriminalized in England in 1967 and marriage equality passed in 2013; the legislation did not extend to Northern Ireland. The End of Northern Ireland's Restrictive Laws Won't Undo the Trauma, but It Will Help the Hurt.
posted by dinty_moore (12 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
There's a complicated history to how this happened:
- In 2017, parliament in Northern Ireland (Stormont) dissolved when it came to light that the DUP was overseeing a poorly structured renewable energy incentivization plan that was rife with abuse. tl,dr; the subsidy had no cap and a business could make a profit heating empty buildings with wood pellets since the subsidy was greater than the cost of the fuel you were supposed to use. Hence it being named "cash for ash."
- In July of 2019, Westminster added a rider to the NI budget bill legalizing same sex marriage and decriminalizing abortion, on the grounds that Stormont could overrule it if they got their act together.
- Yesterday the DUP decided that keeping abortion illegal was important enough of an issue to try to finally call back MPs to hold a session in Stormont to prevent this from happening. They failed to do that.

(I may be a bit biased as an outsider who splits his time between Belfast and Portland, this is to say like many things in the North, this is a lot more complicated than it appears in a headline)
posted by mrzarquon at 6:57 PM on October 22, 2019 [9 favorites]

I confess to being a lot more ignorant than I should be about the political nuances of that particular corner of the world, when it comes to understanding so many thanks to both OP and mrzarquon for the links. I feel a bit less clueless now.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:43 PM on October 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

Good for them. Long overdue.
posted by tzikeh at 7:49 PM on October 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

The North Is Now.
posted by knapah at 12:03 AM on October 23, 2019 [3 favorites]

Results from the RHI inquiry (ie the dodgy biomass subsidy) are reportedly due next month. It's about time. Difficult to see any results outside the range from incompetent to criminal.
posted by biffa at 12:24 AM on October 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've started writing a couple of comments about our local politicians and deleted them, because today should be for celebrating the progress that's finally been made rather than concentrating on the backwards politicians who tried to stop it. Conor McGinn, the MP who spearheaded the equal marriage amendment, is originally from my neck of the woods. I don't know him personally, but I'm immensely proud of the effort he has made for his home country since becoming an MP in England. And I am also in awe of Stella Creasy and the efforts she has made to ensure equal access to abortion in the face of horrendous abuse.
posted by ppl at 9:44 AM on October 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

Can someone explain (like I'm five, probably) the concept of "devolved government" and how a country functions without an executive? I know there's a lot of inertia. But is there a system for getting a new executive if the DUP and Sinn Féin don't work together at some point?

What I know about either of those couldn't fill a thimble; I'm grabbing phrases from websites that mention why the block failed (lack of a quorum? sort of?), but don't give enough background to understand what that gap means for the rest of the government.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 9:36 AM on October 25, 2019

> how a country functions without an executive? I know there's a lot of inertia.

Inertia is pretty much it from best I can tell - I don't think anyone ever planned for this to go on for so long. This fell apart just after the Brexit vote, so the worrying thing is now that once Brexit is decided, it is going to change *something* in the North if there isn't a second referendum and a recall of article 50.

That is the worrying concern - Brexit happens in some form, meaning NI will need executive decisions to be made and governance to be carried out by civil servants, and without the leadership, it wont be elected officials making those decisions.

There is talk that they must have a general election for a new assembly by August, but pretty much the stalemate is Arlene Foster from the DUP (and chief instigator of the RHI scandal, as she oversaw it's implementation and was a staunch defender of it even in light of it's obvious corruption) would become First Minister again - and Sinn Fein won't accept that. If Foster steps aside, chances are a government would form. But that is a big if, and this is me showing my bias here, because that would require DUP acknowledging they did something wrong which is not really in the heart of DUP.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:06 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

So... the executive leader is selected by the assembly, which is in such disagreement that no leader can be selected? And a general election might replace enough assembly people on various sides to allow the new group to select a leader, but it might not?
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:16 AM on October 25, 2019

> the executive leader is selected by the assembly, which is in such disagreement that no leader can be selected?

The executive office has two First Ministers (technically First and Deputy First) but with equal power. One Republican (not US republican, but "For the Republic of Ireland" is how I have to keep it straight) and one Unionist (for the Union with the United Kingdom). Both have to agree to meet. The deputy first minister (from Sinn Fein, the Republican party) refuses to work with the current first minister (Arlene Foster, of the DUP), so they stepped down. Without one, the other can't act and can't form a government.

So in the minds of Republicans, the DUP needs to select a new First Minister, an election could force that with enough churn in the make up of the Unionists parties, but I don't know how likely. Foster could step down (or forced to be) if next month's RHI inquiry is damning enough, which could unblock the stalemate. Foster is defending staying in office by saying the requests for her removal are politically motivated - when it would seem reasonable that a government official who was the one running a program that is now being investigated for fraud be removed office while the investigation is ongoing (especially considering she now has considerably more power and influence as first minister to interfere with that investigation - which may have influenced Sinn Fein's decision to step down, as Foster isn't able to technically do anything in the role as first minister right now).

The DUP did not win any popularity contests by their last minute effort to block abortion decriminalization. The gall to try to hold an assembly last minute just for that, while ignoring all their previous actions and calls for coming to an assembly so the day to day operating of NI government could happen was amazing.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:36 AM on October 25, 2019 [2 favorites]

(apologies if I'm grossly oversimplifying this for N. Ireland folks, I'm genuinely trying my best to help others understand what is so overlooked there by Americans)
posted by mrzarquon at 11:45 AM on October 25, 2019

Foster is defending staying in office by saying the requests for her removal are politically motivated

Without knowing any of the detailed history... sure, that seems accurate. Requests for her removal are motivated by her being a terrible politician. They are "politically motivated" in the sense that people would like functional politics in their government.

(I suppose she means the request for removal are caused by people on the other side wanting any edge they can get, not because a whole lot of people think she's lousy at her job, which just happens to be political.)
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:35 PM on October 25, 2019

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