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Government Government

Maintain principles of democracy and consent for Northern Ireland’s future

Last updated: 08:55pm 16 December 2019

We will uphold the essential principle that Northern Ireland’s future should only ever be determined by democracy and consent.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.34

Our verdict

In January 2017, the Renewable Heat Incentive Scandal resulted in the dissolution of the Northern Ireland Executive. Today, the region still lacks its devolved government, despite a manifesto promise to reinstate an executive at the earliest opportunity. This is a pledge to ensure that the future of the Northern Ireland is determined by democracy and consent.

Since the general election, the government has encouraged negotiations between the leading parties in Northern Ireland, backing democratic attempts to re-establish an executive. In 2018 and 2019, the government enacted legislation to ensure that a democratic procedure is followed in the formation of a new executive. The second of those pieces of legislation, the Northern Ireland Act (Executive Formation etc) 2019, placed an obligation on the UK government to make changes to the law in Northern Ireland on same-sex marriage and abortion (in 2018, the Republic of Ireland voted ‘Yes‘ to abortion in a referendum).

Some opponents of abortion argued that changing the law on a devolved matter was the UK government engaging in an “undemocratic process”. However, given that the decision was made using democratic parliamentary procedures and action was taken as a last resort due only to the lack of a sitting Northern Irish executive, we respectfully disagree.

The government is facilitating talks and passing legislation to give a structure to the process of re-establishing an executive, while ensuring that the citizens’ will is enshrined in law. We think those things are upholding the principle that Northern Ireland’s future should be determined by democracy and consent. This policy is ‘done’.

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