Brown sold out Northern Irish women to win 42 day vote

// 12 June 2008

Gordon Brown won the vote, clearing the path for police to detain terror suspects for 42 days without charge.

But it would never have happened without support from the DUP – according to the Telegraph, he secured this support by promising – among other things – not to end the ban on abortion in Northern Ireland.

Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, assured the DUP that the Government had no plans to end the ban on abortion in the province. Abortion has never been legal in Northern Ireland, and women and girls seeking a termination often travel to the England for the procedure.

Via Rhetorically Speaking

Comments From You

Josie // Posted 12 June 2008 at 1:16 pm

I’m disgusted. Time for this incompetent PM to go – he’s floundering around trying to do anything that will make him look “tough” including selling out the rights of NI women to take control over their own bodies. Utterly shameful. Thanks for posting this Jess

Sabre // Posted 12 June 2008 at 1:17 pm

I can’t believe it. Gordon Brown is clearly a hypocrite for recently backing the current 24 week limit on abortions but denying the women of NI to the same freedom of choice. I was supportive of Brown before, but now I can’t wait for him to leave. However I’m scared now, as the Tories inspire no faith in me either. Who’s going to stand up both for the rights of women and Muslims (and anyone who looks like a Muslim) now?

Jess McCabe // Posted 12 June 2008 at 2:11 pm

Yeeaas. And also no.

Perhaps I was a bit harsh in my headline – of course, I vehmently disagree with Brown using women’s rights as a bargaining chip in this, or any, circumstance.

However, I don’t think it was ever on the cards for Parliament to intercede in the abortion law in Northern Ireland, and it’s questionable whether it would really be desireable for Westminster to force laws through onto Northern Ireland. Even abortion rights.

My eyebrow does raise towards the Unionists though, whose enthusiasm for being part of the UK, etc, does not seem to extend to women’s rights and other issues. But that is a political quagmire if ever there was one!

joanne // Posted 12 June 2008 at 2:12 pm

This is particularly disappointing as we were so hopeful Evan Harris would table an amendment to extend the act and the pro-choice campaign had actually been going quite well. I’m just so fucking tired of Northern Irish women being used as pawns, and for that to happen under a Labour government (Northern Ireland is not yet fully devolved, so this is absolutely an issue Westminster can intervene on) is reprehensible.

-joanne (pro-choice northern ireland)

Sabre // Posted 12 June 2008 at 2:36 pm

Yes I had a bit of a rant there earlier. Actually I am really more disappointed about the 42 day pre-charge detention period. I hope the House of Lords will see sense and toss that one in the rubbish heap. The 42 day limit is troubling because I doubt the benefits of increasing the limit will outweigh the risks posed by alienating certain parts of society. I do still think there is an element of hypocrisy (and worse) in Gordon Brown having little/no interest in NI abortion issues other than to use it as a bargaining chip.

Siún // Posted 12 June 2008 at 2:58 pm

It is scary that the British government is willing to bargain with the DUP in this way, and the scariness goes beyond the issue of abortion.

A DUP MP, Northern Irish assembly member and the wife of our DUP First Minister, Iris Robinson, recently appeared on BBC Radio Ulster, saying that homosexuals should be ‘cured’ by a psychiatrist friend of hers, who can ‘turn them away’ from this ‘abomination’ ( She made these comments during a discussion of a violent homophobic attack on a gay man earlier in the same week.

Iris Robinson has previously said that gay people should not be depicted on television and that she is sorry the term ‘coloured’ can no longer be used to talk about black people (Irish News 04/06/08). She has not gone unchallenged here, thank goodness, but her response – ‘I am defending the word of God’ – shows that the particular form of Christianity which drives the DUP has no concern with human rights and no place in the political realm of a pluralistic society which has any interest in equality. Feminists – in fact, everyone who isn’t a white male Christian bigot – should be very worried if the DUP have Gordon’s ear.

There is a petition calling for the prime minister to reprimand MP Iris Robinson for her remarks here – – what do you think the chances are? Perhaps it depends what tricky votes the government has coming up.

Tulip // Posted 12 June 2008 at 3:46 pm

I have reported Iris Robinson to the PSNI over these comments and I would encourage anyone with the stomach for it to listen to the full discussion over the last week on this website (From Friday 6th June):

For guidance on how to complain see the Rainbow Project website:

I still cannot get my head around the abortion legislation over here. It is just unbelievable. I am disgusted that these are people that supposedly ‘represent’ me.

Harpymarx // Posted 12 June 2008 at 4:19 pm

Oh great! Selling out a woman’s right to choose to appease those reactionary ratbags, the DUP (that includes the appalling anti-choice homophobic MP Iris Robinson ).

And now we can wave au revoir to Magna Carta and civil liberties as New Labour have run roughshod over those principles. Welcome to the brave new authoritarian scary world of Labour.

Bloody beyond contempt these people and esp. those so-called left MPs like Jon Trickett and Jon Cruddas who obviously lack something vital….a backbone..

Rachel // Posted 12 June 2008 at 10:15 pm

Well, that’s my last lingering thread of respect for Gordon Brown gone, then. My mother is from Belfast, and many of my relations live there, including my cousin, Holly, aged 22. I feel sick that she might have to get on a bloody ferry or on a plane just to get an abortion, should she ever want one or need one. Fuck you, Gordon Brown, and the DUP.

Anne Onne // Posted 12 June 2008 at 10:53 pm

My heart goes out for the women in Northern Ireland (as well as the Republic of Ireland, and other countries where there is no or limited access). We fought and watched on tenterhooks for the limit here to be kept, and we need to keep fighting for it to stay. But we also need to help encourage the fight to loosen other countries’ draconian abortion laws, and support those that fight for them there.

But not every woman can travel to England, and this especially puts poor women at risk. Thank God for Women On Waves, but we need more like them, whilst safe, easily accesible abortions are not a reality for many women in the world.

It’s a sad day when I feel so keenly aware of how privileged I am because I have most of my human rights. This should be the minimum standard, not something we have to fight to keep having.

The 42 day limit makes me worry. As someone reminded me, it’s not a short time. If someone innocent is being held, how will this affect their family if they have children or are caring for someone? What about their job? Few people can take more than a month off for no reason, and still come back to work. Because this is holding without charge, you could theoretically hold someone with very little evidence, on the pretext that you’re looking for evidence. I just don’t know if we have enough safeguards to prevent this being abused.

Also, this hurts relations with the communities we need to work hardest to not alienate, and we don’t need more disaffected minorities.

wimmin indeed // Posted 13 June 2008 at 9:46 am

I was born in Northern Ireland. The abortion debate runs deeper than the supposed ‘deal’ struck with the DUP. The DUP are basically fundamentalists who desire to subjugate all liberal thinking, in the name of religious dogma. It would not matter a jot the hue of the Government in Parliament they would still push ahead their agenda. They get the electoral mandate to have a majority within the Northern Irish parliament. It’s up to the voters to back those who promote liberal thinking, regardless of their religious and political background.

It was a conservative MP who brought about the recent debate on reducing the abortion limit. If you think Gordon Brown is bad just wait for the proverbial to hit the fan when the new Government comes in.

On July 7 2005, 52 people lost their lives in a suicide bombing campaign in London. Hundreds have been left scared mentally and physically by this dreadful, indiscriminate act. A similar disaster was missed at Glasgow airport.

In 1971 Operation Demetrius was instigated in Northern Ireland. Otherwise know as internment, it was driven through by a Conservative government under the leadership of Edward Heath. Internment was the indeterminate detention without trial and charge of anyone belonging to a terrorist group. It was overwhelmingly directed at the IRA. It lasted for 4 years during which time the detainees were subjugated to torture in the form of sensory deprivation. I’m no fan of the DUP but they opposed Operation Demetrius. They rightly pointed out that it would be a recruitment tool for the IRA.

Post Internment, the 42 day rule will be used only in the most extreme circumstances. Times have changed, even since the crude anti-terrorist measures used in 70’s. This is now a society in which terrorists are well versed in the most sophisticated techniques. They will bomb indiscriminately, without a warning, and will kill themselves to achieve their ends.

I would argue that the 42 day rule is a measure that will help to safeguard the most basic of civil liberties to be able to live in relative safety.

Sabre // Posted 13 June 2008 at 10:00 am

Anne Onne, you made me think. This is a bit off the point, but I do think that if it was ever referred to as 6 weeks rather than 42 days some people would be surprised to realise how long a period this is. 6 weeks has a big impact on someone’s life, it’s a long time! People don’t tend to think in days if it’s for more than two weeks, so saying 42 days instead of six weeks is really rather clever because it’s more difficult to grasp and therefore be shocked by.

Is it a similar case to the abortion limit? I’m not sure. Which is easier to grasp, 168 days, 24 weeks or 6 months? (BTW I’m aware that weeks are probably used for a good, possibly medical reason)

I’m not suggesting deliberate use of time units on anyone’s part, just questioning how it impacts on peoples’ ability to judge the length of something.

Ariel Silvera // Posted 13 June 2008 at 10:06 am

I always find it interesting how discussions about policy in NI rarely talk about the Republic and vice-versa. As a foreigner who’s lived in the Republic for 7 years, it’s struck me as strange.

Particularly in this case, because the ban on abortion in NI cannot be discussed without remembering it’s there as a sort of tacit agreement with the South. If NI legalised abortion (and the situation in NI is much better than the Republic let me assure you*), that would mean many, many women coming from the South, who’d rather take a train than have to travel to a different landmass…

I am not dismissing the situation in the North, I see how it’s incredibly frustrating to live under this milquetoast, non-committal bulshit. But the problem isn’t really Gordon Brown as much as the main parties of the North being extremely religious based, and agreeing on nothing EXCEPT abortion. Until that changes, and until the Republic starts modernising laws in this regard, I don’t think NI is going to change, sadly.

*NI has around 100 or more legal abortions performed under “health of the patient” and “extreme foetal abnormality” clauses. Practitioners in the Republic of Ireland, although legally allowed to do this, refuse to perform the procedure. If you ever want to feel despair, look up the statistics of how many women give Irish addresses, in the UK, when requesting an abortion…

Helen G // Posted 13 June 2008 at 3:24 pm

I thought this has to go through the House of Lords before it can become law?

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