The DUP has said a Westminster direction that Stormont should deploy full abortion services in Northern Ireland has “damaged” the devolution.
But Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party and the Green Party have welcomed the move by Britain’s Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.
First Deputy Secretary Michelle O’Neill stated that a “blockade” of women’s rights by the DUP had now been overcome.
Northern Ireland abortion laws were liberalized in 2019 following legislation passed by Westminster, but full services have not yet been ordered from the center due to disagreements between the Executive parties.
Mr Lewis has now used new powers to lead ministers in Belfast to take the necessary steps to open abortion services across the region.
Carla Lockhart, an MP for the anti-abortion DUP, said the issue was one on which local politicians should have been allowed to find consensus.
“The government’s insistence on intervening in devalued matters undermines the institutions. Indeed, cynically, some local parties know that by failing to engage constructively to find that local agreement, that the government will meet the objectives of their by March 2022 at the latest, “she said.
“What incentive do they now have to pay any attention to the pro-life views held by hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland?”
She added: “What we have in this statement from the Secretary of State is a further example of a government that acts disrespectfully to the local electorate and elected politicians in the country. The DUP is ready to find a way forward agreed for the country. “
Mrs O’Neill welcomed the intervention of the Secretary of Northern Ireland.
She wrote on Twitter: “Women here can finally have access to the modern and compassionate health care services to which they are legally entitled.
“The blockade of these rights by the DUP and unionism has now been overcome.”
Ulster Union leader Doug Beattie said he believed service delivery would now happen.
His party colleague, Robin Swann, is the Minister of Health who has been ordered by Westminster to bring proposals for the services commission to the Executive.
Mr Beattie told the BBC: “Abortion is legal in Northern Ireland and therefore we need to have services to make sure they can be delivered.
“Robin (Swann) has brought him before the Executive before and is trapped.
“Now he is headed to bring her forward and it is directed that she should appear before the Executive.”
MLA Alliance Party Paula Bradshaw said: “It is imperative that this issue now be placed on the Executive agenda and have an immediate signature.
“The last thing women need here is further delays or the prospect of more legal action to get services.”
MLA Green Party Clare Bailey said: “The actions of the Secretary of State are welcome – this direction is vital given the denial of access to services for women in Northern Ireland and is necessary given that Westminster has a responsibility to ensure compliance with standards of rights “.
But Jim Allister, leader of the Traditional Unionist Voice party, said Mr Lewis’s actions had shown that devolution was a “hoax”.
He added: “Brandon Lewis has made it clear that he does not care about the powers of the Minister of Health as he is instructing him to ensure employment and the availability of abortion in Northern Ireland.
“Honestly, if Mr. Lewis can intervene like this, what does devolution mean?”
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