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Live Reporting

Tori Watson and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. Good evening


    The votes on Clause 2 are in.

    87 MLAs voted, of which 42 voted aye and 45 no.

    The long title of the bill is not agreed.

    The Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill will now be referred to the speaker.

    The final item on today’s agenda is an adjournment debate on Belfast rapid transit in South Belfast.

    It’s been brought by DUP MLA Christopher Stalford.

    We’re going to leave MLAs to their discussion, however, if you would like to follow the debate you can do so on the NI Assembly website.

    We’ll be back tomorrow morning with more live coverage - this time of the Economy Committee.

    Until then, good evening.

  2. Amendment 1 defeated

    The first amendment is also defeated.

    MLAs now turn to a vote on whether Clause 2 should stand part of the bill.

    The House divides again.

  3. Clause 1 voted down

    Clause 1 is voted down.

    MLAs now turn to amendment one.

    There is no agreement on the amendment and therefore the House divides again.

  4. 'I hope we do kill this bill'

    Gerry Carroll

    Gerry Carroll winds on his amendments and refers to various points raised by MLAs during the debate.

    The People Before Profit representative says it’s “quite remarkable the fact that the mover of a bill gets more animated at a hashtag on Twitter than the desperate and traumatic impact of restricting abortion”.

    “I hope we do kill this bill, if passed it would be very dangerous for women across the north,” he adds.

    Speaker Alex Maskey puts the question on opposition to clause 1 to an oral vote but there is no agreement and so the House divides.

  5. 'Bill will ensure that all children are treated fairly'

    Christopher Stalford

    The sponsor of the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill, Christopher Stalford is thankful that the debate "has not descended into rancour and acrimony" and he proceeds to address points raised by the members.

    He says his party colleague Paul Givan rightly pointed out that Sinn Féin "implicitly accepted the principle of the bill".

    Mr Stalford says he believes the issue "will unite the huge majority of people in this country".

    "This bill will ensure that all children are treated fairly, that's it. That is the sum content of this bill," the South Belfast MLA says.

  6. 'Does disability deserve death?'

    Jim Allister

    "I find it deeply shocking that saving the life of, let's take, a Down's baby, can provoke such venomous opposition," says Jim Allister.

    "Abortion is the snuffing out of whatever life in that case is in the womb," he continues.

    The nub of the debate is "does disability deserve death," the TUV leader says.

  7. 'The power of women’s reproductive justice'

    Clare Bailey

    “I despair at the level of knowledge being displayed on this bill today,” says Clare Bailey.

    The Green Party MLA says “women in NI have never been afforded their rights by this institution”.

    Before NI's abortion laws were changed by Westminster the South Belfast rep says: “Many MPs were telling me that when they tried to raise this issue they were being told not to interfere in NI politics, that stepping into the abortion debate would threaten our very institutions and the very peace process itself so they backed off believing they were doing a good thing.

    “I am very glad for every intervention to date and I thank them for it,” she adds.

    “Who knew the extent and the power of women’s reproductive justice?”

  8. 'It’s long past time that we trust women'

    Andrew Muir

    Andrew Muir of Alliance says the issue of abortion is a matter of conscience for members of his party.

    He explains that he’ll not be supporting the amendments proposed today.

    Mr Muir says the clauses seek to “roll back progress”.

    “It’s long past time that we trust women,” says the North Down MLA, adding that supporting clauses “will add additional pressures what is already an incredibly difficult time in a women’s life”.

  9. 'What if something goes really badly wrong?'

    Sinead McLaughlin

    Sinead McLaughlin says she's opposed to the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill.

    "We have watched friends have difficult and complicated pregnancies but what if something goes really badly wrong? What happens if your daughter, your sister, your wife, your niece is told that her baby has a severe fetal impairment?" the SDLP MLA asks.

    "I would want to give my daughter space, I would want to give her time to process information that she has received. I would want her to get a second opinion," she adds.

    "This bill would force women with likely much-wanted pregnancies to make a decision without the adequate time to process the new information," Ms McLaughlin says.

    She criticises Sinn Féin for its decision to abstain on the bill.

  10. 'The law should not treat some people differently from others'

    Deborah Erskine

    Deborah Erskine says the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill "is a targeted piece of draft legislation which focuses on stereotypes against disabilities".

    "The answer to poor standards of ante-natal care for women is not to liberalise the law on abortion. It is to invest in specialised pathways and support those who have received a diagnosis of fetal impairment," the DUP MLA says.

    She says there is need for psychological support for families.

    Ms Erskine quotes a young friend with Down's syndrome who said: "I felt very sad when this was explained to me. The law should not treat some people differently from others."

  11. 'DUP and the health minister continue to hold up and deny service'

    With Question Time wrapped up, MLAs return to their earlier debate on the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill.

    Michelle O’Neill, the vice-president of Sinn Féin, is first to be called by the speaker to reopen the discussion.

    She begins by explaining that she is speaking on behalf of her party this afternoon rather than in her capacity as deputy first minister.

    Michelle O'Neill

    “The women of this island have waited long enough to access modern and compassionate abortion services and that’s an undeniable, indisputable and appalling fact,” she says.

    Mrs O’Neill says the “DUP and the health minister continue to hold up and deny this essential health care service to women and girls who need it”.

    “Sinn Féin has an all-island policy on abortion services,” says Mrs O’Neill adding, “we want to see the very same laws here and services which have been adopted in the south following the repeal of the 8th amendment”.

  12. Four points you need to know from Infrastructure Question Time

    Key issues raised during questions to Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

    • The department generally salts the main through roads during the winter period, says Ms Mallon
    • The minister explains that if the road salting service was increased to cover 90% or 100% of the network “you’d be doubling the cost of winter service to £14m or quadrupling to £28m”
    • “I’m becoming increasingly concerned at the finance minister’s push for cuts to our public transport network,” says Nichola Mallon
    • The minister says there is a need for an Irish Language Act and to ensure “equality for Irish language speakers”
  13. Belfast to Dublin railway service

    Justin McNulty

    It's time for topical questions. This is the 15-minute slot when members can ask about subjects that haven't bene covered in listed questions.

    The SDLP's Justin McNulty joins by video link and asks about the All-island Strategic Rail Review.

    He wants to know if there will be a rail service from Belfast to Dublin, stopping at Newry and arriving at Dublin for people to start work on time.

    "We have gone out to public consultation" the infrastructure minister says.

    Nichola Mallon adds that she would encourage all members to feed into the review with regard to specific aspects of railway development.

  14. Public inquiry into the A5 project

    Thomas Buchanan

    The DUP's Thomas Buchanan asks for "an update on the proposed A5 Western Transport Corridor".

    The infrastructure minister says "work continues at pace on the development of the A5 Western Transport Corridor project which I acutely recognise is of significant strategic importance to the region".

    Nichola Mallon says that following receipt of an initial report on the public inquiry officials have been working on "development of a new environmental statement addendum for consultation".

    Ms Mallon says it's anticipated that the public inquiry can then be reconvened next year.

    She says the timeframe for full completion by 2028 "remains achievable".

  15. 'A repeat of what we've been hearing for months'

    Mervyn Storey

    The DUP's Mervyn Storey asks the infrastructure minister "when she will publish the Regional Strategic Transport Network Transport Plan (RSTNTP)".

    Nichola Mallon says the plan "will set out priorities for investment in our road, rail and inter-urban limited stop bus network including park and ride through to 2035".

    "I expect to publish a draft RSTNTP for public consultation when the work is finished and completed and I've had time and the opportunity to consider it," she says.

    Mr Storey says this is "a repeat of what we've been hearing now for the last number of months".

  16. 63,000 grit piles for salting roads

    Alan Chambers

    Ulster Unionist Alan Chambers asks the infrastructure minister for "an assessment of her department's preparedness for winter".

    Nichola Mallon says the delivery of winter services "has been ongoing since 18 October".

    She outlines the preparations made by her department ahead of the winter, including the salting of roads and the potential of flooding.

    Mr Chambers asks if additional gully-cleaning is carried out in areas threatened by flooding.

    The minister says her department "does keep a very close eye on areas of concern" but she would like to do more if the budget were available.

    On the subject of road salting, she says the department has provided over 5,600 grit boxes and 63,000 grit piles.

  17. 'Freedom and confidence to walk, wheel and cycle'

    Nichola Mallon

    Nichola Mallon, the Infrastructure Minister, is primed at her podium to field questions from MLAs.

    Her first of the day comes from Alliance party representative Chris Lyttle.

    He wants to know if proposed cycle schemes in Ballymena and Belfast will have separate cycle and pedestrian lanes on urban streets.

    The minister says she wants to provide "safe routes that give people the freedom and confidence to walk, wheel and cycle as part of their everyday routine".

    She says she understands the frustration felt by some people as schemes can take a long time to deliver.

    Pop-up cycle lanes have been a popular addition to city streets across the world, says the minister, adding that she's taking forward further measures to facilitate active travel, including legislation to introduce a bus lane along the Dublin Road in Belfast.

  18. Question Time


    MLAs halt their debate on the Severe Fetal Impairment Abortion (Amendment) Bill and turn their attention to Question Time.

    It takes place during plenary sessions every Monday and Tuesday between 14:00-15:30.

    It's an opportunity for members to question ministers about the work of their departments.

    There are usually two slots during each Question Time session, however today the spotlight it solely on Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon.

    Thirty minutes will be spent on Listed Questions with a further 15 allocated to Topical Questions.

  19. 'I am opposed to the bill for a vast range of reasons'

    Paula Bradshaw

    Paula Bradshaw says she supports the amendment.

    "I am opposed to the bill for a vast range of reasons" she says.

    The Alliance MLA explains that she believes "the best person to choose whether to proceed with a pregnancy is the woman herself with the advice of the medical professionals with decades of experience".

  20. 'Blatant discrimination'

    Sinéad Bradley

    SDLP MLA Sinéad Bradley joins the plenary session by video link.

    She says the “crux of this bill is about setting the person with a disability on the same legal footing as those who do not”.

    “If or when I see blatant discrimination, as I do in this case, I like every other member in this House have a duty to recognise it, call it out and stop it.”