Life Matters, News archive 2008

Catholic Bishops support call for opposition to introduction of 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland

17 October 2008

Catholic Bishops support call for opposition to introduction of 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland

Bishops call for prayers to coincide with historic Pro-Life Rally tomorrow at Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland today [Friday 17th October] expressed their opposition to efforts by some British MPs to have the 1967 Abortion Act extended to Northern Ireland.  The Bishops’ statement comes as Westminster MPs prepare to debate an amendment tabled by Labour MP Ms Diane Abbot and others to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology (HFE) Bill.  In a joint statement the Bishops said:

“In the coming weeks Members of Parliament in Westminster will be debating the final stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.  This Bill has far reaching ethical implications.  As part of this debate a number of MPs, not from Northern Ireland and acting contrary to the express wishes of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, intend to use the debate to introduce an amendment which would extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland.

“We appeal to every person of goodwill to reject this attempt to set aside the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.  After years of intensive negotiation for a political settlement here it would be most regrettable should the Westminster Parliament now fail to uphold a fundamental value which has consistently united the main traditions on the island of Ireland.

“Last year, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Shaun Woodward MP, stated that the Northern Ireland Assembly is the ‘best forum for discussion of these questions.’  We wholeheartedly agree with this position and ask that Members of Parliament work to ensure that any future debate on the law on abortion in Northern Ireland is solely the responsibility of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

“All the main political parties in Northern Ireland have expressed their opposition to the extension of the 1967 Abortion Act.  We ask all Westminster MPs to take account of the clear position of the Northern Ireland political parties who represent the strongly held conviction of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland, by voting against the amendment.  We ask Westminster MPs to respect the particular cultural, historical and political circumstances of Northern Ireland and to avoid any action which may be seen as intruding on the carefully negotiated settlement of political aspiration, representative participation and human rights here.”

The Bishops’ concluded, “As the historic Pro-Life Rally takes place tomorrow at Parliament Buildings, Stormont, we also ask people to pray that greater recognition will be given to the life of the unborn child and to the inherent dignity of every person from conception to natural death within the HFE Bill.”


The Catholic Bishops of Northern Ireland are: Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland; Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher; Bishop Séamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry; Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore; Bishop Noel Treanor, Bishop of Down and Connor; Bishop Anthony Farquhar, Auxilliary Bishop of Down and Connor; Bishop Francis Lagan, Auxiliary Bishop of Derry; Bishop Donal McKeown, Auxiliary Bishop of Down and Connor; and, Bishop Gerard Clifford, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh.

Further information:

Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Kathy Tynan, Communications Officer (086 817 5674)

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