Northern Ireland’s unionist parties have recalled the Stormont assembly today in a last-minute attempt to stop the decriminalisation of abortion from coming into effect, my colleague Daniel Avelar reports.
The region’s restrictive abortion laws are set to change at midnight on Monday after the Commons voted last July to bring reproductive rights in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
This is the first time in nearly three years that the parliament in Belfast will meet, since legislators from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin nationalists failed to reach a power-sharing agreement after the devolved government collapsed in January 2017.
The recall follows a petition promoted by anti-abortion campaigners and signed by 31 members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), aiming to put abortion rights back in the hands of local politicians.
MLAs would need to form an executive before the midnight deadline to block the abortion reform, but that is highly unlikely as nationalist parties said their members would not attend today’s session.
Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, defended the recall, saying it would allow MLAs to “debate the issue” of abortion in Northern Ireland, while a Sinn Féin spokesperson called it a “pointless political stunt”.
As well as the decriminalisation of abortion, same-sex marriage is also due to become legal on Tuesday after a separate Westminster vote in July.
Here’s the full report from the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent Rory Carroll.