Abortion and Gay Marriage Now Legal in Northern Ireland
DUP Arlene Foster branded today a 'shameful' as abortion is legalized
Abortion and gay marriage are now legal in Northern Ireland after new laws came into effect at midnight on Tuesday.
Westminster MPs passed the laws on both issues by using their prerogative on behalf of the region, which it was able to do due to Stormont, NI's government, not sitting.
Pro-life protesters and pro-abortion campaigners turned out to air their feelings on the change in abortion law.
The leader of Northern Ireland's conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Arlene Foster said it was a "shameful day."
"This is not a day of celebration for the unborn," Foster added.
Foster assured citizens that decriminalization would not mark the end of efforts to prevent the introduction of abortion services in the region and vowed that her party would explore "every possible legal option" open to it.
Same-sex couples have been celebrating the change, with mock wedding receptions underway across the province, according to reports.
Among them are Christopher Flanagan-Kane and Henry Flanagan-Kane, who became one of the first gay couples to have a civil partnership when it became legal in December 2015.
Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said the moment comes after years of campaigning.
"Today we celebrate success, secured not because of the presence of Stormont, but because of its absence," he said.
"Despite overwhelming popular support for change, sadly the Executive and Assembly repeatedly failed to deliver marriage equality and abortion law reform. When Stormont collapsed, we took our campaigns to Westminster.
"This is an incredible moment for so many people, especially for same-sex couples, who will now be treated as equal citizens in their own country."
The first sitting of the Stormont Assembly in two-and-a-half years today ended in acrimony after a last-minute bid to thwart the decriminalization of abortion was blocked.
The Assembly sat after it was recalled by MLAs wishing to protest at changes to Northern Ireland's abortion laws.
At the start of proceedings in Parliament Buildings, there was an attempt by anti-abortion MLAs to fast-track a piece of private members' legislation through in a single day to halt the abortion reform.
But outgoing speaker Robin Newton prevented the matter being considered.
DUP Paul Givan MLA had urged the suspension of standing orders to enable the bill to be tabled.
However, Mr. Newton said a new speaker would need to be in place before the Assembly could turn to such a legislative bid.
The election of a speaker requires cross-community in the chamber - such support was not forthcoming as nationalist members indicated they would not back any appointment in the absence of a power-sharing executive.
Mr. Newton said it was "not good practice" to take a piece of legislation through in one day.
Mr. Givan insisted that advice from Northern Ireland Attorney General John Larkin indicated that standing orders could be suspended to allow the legislation to be considered.
Newton maintained his stance, highlighting that he had received his own legal advice on the issue.
The plenary sitting was dominated by unionist members representing the DUP, UUP, and TUV.
SDLP members also attended, but leader Colum Eastwood said his party would not support a speaker if an executive was not formed.
Their MLAs then walked out of the chamber. Sinn Fein did not turn up to a sitting it had branded a circus.