Northern Ireland

Varadkar: NI abortion laws should mirror the rest of UK

Pro Choice activists rally outside City Hall on January 15, 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Image copyright Getty Images

Women in Northern Ireland should have the same abortion rights as those in the rest of the UK and Ireland, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

However, he said abortion law in Northern Ireland is not a matter for Westminster or the Irish government, despite calls for action.

Last month Ireland voted in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment.

The vote led to many MPs at Westminster calling for abortion reform in NI in the absence of a functioning assembly.

"Northern Ireland, in many ways, should be the best of Britain and the best of Ireland and sometimes it seems it's the reverse," said Mr Varadkar, speaking on Good Morning Ulster ahead of his visit to Belfast on Friday.

It will be the first time an Irish prime minister has been to the headquarters of the Orange Order in Belfast.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe law on abortion in Northern Ireland explained

"Any right or freedom enjoyed by Irish or British citizens should apply in Northern Ireland as well," added Mr Varadkar.

"I've a very strong view that this is a decision that should be made by the elected politicians.

"It could be a decision that the executive or the assembly makes, but we can't have progress on issues such as that until those institutions are back working again."

Mr Varadkar said that he was not going to come to Northern Ireland and "tell them what laws they should have".

"Those laws should be determined by the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, not by Dublin or London," he added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald are campaigning for abortion law reform in Northern Ireland

Mr Varadkar said that the Constitution of Ireland - the fundamental laws of the Republic - meant a referendum had to be called.

"The reason we had referendums in Ireland on abortion and marriage equality is because our constitution requires it," he said.

"We can't amend our constitution without a referendum, but that is not the case in Northern Ireland."

More on this story