ARLENE Foster (pictured right) has said the Irish abortion referendum will have no impact upon law in Northern Ireland.
The Democratic Unionist leader said legislation governing terminations was a devolved matter and it was for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues.
Prime Minister Theresa May is facing pressure to liberalise the strict laws in Northern Ireland, where abortion is illegal in all but the most exceptional of circumstances.
The devolved Stormont Assembly has not sat for months following a row between former coalition partners the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein over a botched green energy scheme.
Mrs. Foster said: “Friday’s referendum has no impact upon the law in Northern Ireland, but we obviously take note of issues impacting upon our nearest neighbour.”
Following calls for a similar referendum north of the Border, she said no constitutional bar existed on abortion in Northern Ireland like that which had covered the procedure in the Republic.
“The legislation governing abortion is a devolved matter and it is for the Northern Ireland Assembly to debate and decide such issues. Some of those who wish to circumvent the Assembly’s role may be doing so simply to avoid its decision.”
The DUP is an anti-abortion party and supports Prime Minister Theresa May’s minority Conservative Government on key votes at Westminster.
Mrs. Foster added: “It is an extremely sensitive issue and not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration. I want to see the Northern Ireland Assembly restored and put no preconditions on the immediate establishment of an Executive. Some of those demanding change (Sinn Fein) are the same people blocking devolution or demanding that Westminster change the law whilst simultaneously opposing Direct Rule.”
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said she wanted Northern Ireland to decide on its abortion laws but in the absence of the devolved executive “we have to find a way to deliver rights”.
She told ITV’s Peston On Sunday: “I think the fact there is a recognition even here in England that the law needs to change in the North of Ireland is a good thing.”She added: “I want us to take the decisions, in the absence of having institutions then we have to find a way to deliver rights because the North is becoming a backwater.”