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Attempt to suspend Assembly standing orders outrageous, says Farry

An attempt to bring legislation to suspend Assembly standing orders and prevent abortion law changes being introduced here was “outrageous”, Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has said.

It follows an attempted sitting by the Assembly after a recall petition. A speaker was unable to be elected, therefore the sitting was suspended. Alliance MLAs had previously stated they would not attend.

“Today’s sitting of the Assembly was always set to be a farce. In fact, what we saw was an absolute disgrace, which amounted to an attempt by one party to try and tear up the Assembly rulebook and subvert the democratic process,” said Dr Farry.

“The Northern Ireland Act is clear the first item of business for an Assembly has to be the election of a speaker. Any return of the Assembly has to be for real, with a fully functioning Executive and an Assembly engaged with proper scrutiny and legislation, rather than a distraction talking shop.

“Any one-day legislation based upon the suspension of standing orders would be dubious and questionable at the best of times. But it is outrageous in the context of a non-functioning political process.

“The legislation itself would also arguably circumvent the European Convention on Human Rights and the recent ruling in the High Court around the incompatibility of existing abortion law in Northern Ireland with human rights standards. In that light, to even attempt that type of legislation in a hurry would be an act of extreme folly.”