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It's direct rule or devolution, DUP warns government

The DUP said the government 'can't have it both ways' and that a 'choice has to be made'. Credit: PA

The DUP has warned that the UK Government is "running very close" to a time when it will have to choose between direct rule or devolution in Northern Ireland.

MPs voted to accept amendments from the House of Lords to extend abortion rights to women in Northern Ireland and also permit same-sex marriage.

During the debate on the Northern Ireland (Executive Function) Bill, the DUP's Westminster leader Nigel Dodds claimed the norms of devolution are being eroded.

65
Conservative MPs voted for the amendments. 57 voted against.

He said: "What we see is the setting aside of every parliamentary norm, every norm about consultation and consideration.

"The reality is we are being very, very selective to legislate on some of the most contentious and divisive issues on which there is no consensus, but leave aside hundreds of other issues on which there is consensus and which there is a common-sense approach that there should be action taken.

"So why don't we have direct rule and legislate on all these issues or respect devolution?

"You can't have it both ways, and I think we are running very close to the time where that clear choice will have to be made."

The revised amendment was brought forward in the Lords on Wednesday to address 'technical problems' with the change to legislation approved by the Commons on Monday.

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Terminations in Northern Ireland are only allowed in cases where a woman's life is at risk or if there is a danger of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

DUP MP Ian Paisley said the Bill had been "hijacked" by MPs pursuing their own "pet subjects".

He said: "It has been hijacked and used as a vehicle for every other subject under the sun.

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"It is wrong that Northern Ireland is now going to be subjected to serious and perverse changes to their laws without proper scrutiny, without proper negotiation, without proper regulation."

Mr Paisley said these were "the most extreme laws that will ever affect anyone in the whole of the United Kingdom with regards to abortion... laws that are prohibited in this part of the United Kingdom but that members will inflict on our part of the United Kingdom in order to make a cheap political point".

Tory MP Fiona Bruce called for Northern Irish politicians to be able to take decisions on these issues.

She said: "Let them decide on such sensitive issues.

"We talk here about the importance of not being colonial. But what is this? Is this what new colonialism looks like?"