Full Direct Rule from London is a step closer after the British government unexpectedly allowed moves at Westminster to bring same-sex marriage and abortion to the north of Ireland
The amendments were part of a bill to further postpone elections in the Six Counties for up to six months, which British Direct Ruler Karen Bradley was needed for the talks process to continue. Members of the suspended Stormont Assembly are to continue to be paid in the interim, some 2.5 years since it last sat.
In a major development, Labour MP Conor McGinn proposed the move to legalise same-sex marriage if a new Stormont Executive is not formed by October 21. It passed by 383 MPs to 73, while a proposal from Labour MP Stella Creasy to extend abortion access was also approved, by 332 to 99. Neither vote came under a party whip, as they were deemed to be conscience issues.
The British goverment has confirmed that if power-sharing is not restored in Belfast, it will begin drafting the secondary legislation that will liberalise abortion law and legalise same sex marriage in the region.