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Ireland's church leaders meet with NI secretary of state as threats to abortion law lingers

by Tola Mbakwe

Northern Ireland has been without a devolved government since January 2017, when the DUP and Sinn Fein split in a bitter row.

If the Northern Ireland Executive is not restored by 21 October, the UK Parliament has placed an obligation on the UK Government to legalise same sex marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.

The leaders of the Catholic Church in Ireland, the Presbyterian Church, and the Methodist Church explained to Julian Smith on Wednesday the urgent need for the devolved government to be restored before the deadline to avoid "unacceptably wide-ranging abortion legislation being imposed on Northern Ireland".

The church leaders said in a statement: "The protection and the dignity of all human life is of vital importance, both women and unborn children – both lives matter.

"We believe that our Northern Ireland political parties have it in their own hands to do something about this. They all need to take risks, especially for the most vulnerable in society, and make the compromises necessary to find an accommodation that will restore the devolved institution."

A statement on the UK government's website states that: "It has always been the Government's strong preference for decisions on sensitive, devolved matters such as these to be taken by the locally elected representatives of the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Smith has said it's his top priority to restore the government and he is working with the Northern Ireland parties to meet that objective.

The church leaders also called for issues such as welfare reform mitigations, health and education policy, as well as the urgent economic and wider issues surrounding Brexit to be addressed.

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