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  • Votes on amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill
Dr Whitford questions the Minister for Brexit in Parliament as shown in Parliament Live

In response to comments made regarding my position on the amendments to the Northern Ireland Bill, regarding their domestic legislation, I would like to say the following:

My actions do not relate to my support for human rights but to my belief that devolved policy should be made by the people of that country and their elected representatives. This is particularly pertinent when Holyrood faces the removal of ultimate control over significant policy areas which have been devolved for 20 years – the threat to devolution and the current constitutional settlement is unprecedented.

These issues illustrate why it is so important the power sharing Executive is re-established as a matter of urgency and I believe this is where the focus of the UK Government should be in terms of Northern Ireland. Despite facing the most serious ramifications of Brexit of all four UK nations, including a threat to the Good Friday Agreement, her people have had no voice throughout the process and this is a disgrace.

There is no doubt that equal marriage and abortion are extremely important issues to the people of Northern Ireland but they are devolved to Northern Ireland, as they are to Scotland, and I do not wish to see the devolved settlement unpicked – a settlement which was endorsed by the people of Northern Ireland by their popular consent in a referendum.

Having grown up in Belfast, I am also conscious that these issues are contentious for many, and that the Republic of Ireland invested considerable energy to develop support for radical social change in these areas through the use of Citizens Assemblies, extensive consultation and referenda. In contrast, however, Westminster plans to introduce these changes before the 21st of October by Statutory Instrument without any indication of what degree of consultation will take place beforehand.

As it was, I did vote on amendments that apply to the UK, rather than Northern Ireland domestic policy, to ensure Parliament cannot be suspended by the Government at this critical time and that the voices of democratically elected MPs are not silenced.

About the author 

Heather Knox

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