Opinion - Northern Ireland Abortion and Same Sex Marriage

First and foremost, the restoration of devolved institutions in Northern Ireland over the coming weeks is of the utmost importance. I agree with my colleague, the Northern Ireland Secretary, that a deal is achievable, and we should all be working towards that goal.

The recent votes highlight the desperate need to restore accountable and representative devolved government for the people of Northern Ireland. It is unfortunate that it has resorted to Westminster legislating in devolved areas and I hope that an agreement can be reached soon to form an executive.

These votes do not, and must not, dislodge the principle that it is the duty of devolved administrations to ensure human rights compliance in relation to devolved matters. Every devolved administration in the United Kingdom shares these responsibilities.

I understand that the amendments cover a number of issues on which many people have strong feelings.

I did vote in favour of the same-sex marriage amendment, in line with the will that had already been expressed by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

In November 2015, a majority of MLAs voted in favour of same-sex marriage. This legislation was subsequently prevented from progressing further and was not enacted at this time but nonetheless, a majority of members voted in favour of same-sex marriage.

I did not vote in favour of the abortion amendment, as the Northern Ireland Assembly has not demonstrated their will in favour of such legislation as they did with same-sex marriage.

Abortion is an emotive and often contentious moral issue and I believe that it should be up to the people of Northern Ireland, and their elected representatives to determine. Members of the Northern Ireland Assembly should have the opportunity to debate and scrutinise legislation on abortion, fulfilling the duties they were elected to carry out.

Along with many of my colleagues, I did not wish to see a need for Westminster to legislate on these devolved matters, and I hope that a new executive will be formed in time to legislate on these issues themselves.