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Celebration as abortion and same-sex marriage legalised in Northern Ireland

After years of grassroots activism, the country's residents have finally been given the same rights as the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

Waking up today, or scrolling through your feed in the back of the uber last night, you were no doubt met with a chorus of online celebration: as of 12 am on 22nd October, abortion and same-sex marriage were legalised in Northern Ireland. In part due to the tireless efforts of individuals and organisations who consistently rallied, educated and raised funds for these causes, the developments demonstrate the power of grassroots activism – as argued by journalist Anna Cafolla today in the Guardian.

The legislative change was effectively enacted by Westminster in July, after it voted to extend these rights to NI if devolution was not restored by 21 October. From January 2017, the country has been without a government due to difficulties between the DUP and Sinn Féin, the two elected parties. As a result of the territory’s history, the lead unionist party and nationalist party must share power in the National Assembly. However, the harmony between the two factions was unsettled over the DUP’s mismanagement of funds in the 2016 “Cash for Ash” scandal.

Yesterday, after being suspended for two years, the Northern Irish government met once more in Stormont as the DUP (reviled in mainland UK for propping up the Conservative Government) attempted to prevent the new legislative changes from coming into effect. Yet this did not restore devolution. Before any governmental business could be assumed, it was necessary for an assembly speaker to be elected by both unionist and nationalist factions. However, once nationalist party SDLP left the assembly this became impossible, and the meeting was promptly suspended.

Speaking on her party’s failure to thwart this liberal progress, DUP leader Arlene Foster commented that yesterday was a “shameful day” for Northern Ireland. We, however, can’t help but think activist group Room 4 Rebellion is much more on the money with their tweet: “it’s happening !! marriage equality and abortion rights will finally come to northern Ireland and our hearts are bursting!! grassroots movements and love triumphsTHE NORTH IS RIGHT NOW !!!”

22 October 2019