- 26 Feb 19
Siobhan 'The North Is Next' McSweeney and Nicola Coughlan have been outspoken in the need to reform Northern Ireland's archaic laws surrounding reproductive rights.
We all saw how it played out. Back at the start of 2018, writer Lisa McGee's Channel 4 comedy Derry Girls went from being a much-buzzed TV show to becoming the biggest show ever to come out of Northern Ireland, paving the way for a second season and becoming a milestone for Irish comedy.
As the show gears up for the start of its second season (March 5 everyone), one of the unexpected consequences of the stars of show being given such a high profile, is that many of them have been outspoken about their support for human rights issues, such as abortion rights.
Today, February 26, two of the show's leading actors, Nicola Coughlan and Siobhan McSweeney, are in Westminster marching with Amnesty International and delivering a petition which asks that the Northern Irish Secretary of State, Karen Bradley, change the laws regarding abortion in Northern Ireland.
Today is the day @siobhni and I are at Westminster with @AmnestyUK to ask the Secretary of State for NI to change abortion laws in Northern Ireland#NowForNI #AbortionIsNotACrime pic.twitter.com/xfhzpY2j6h
— Nicola Coughlan (@nicolacoughlan) February 26, 2019
The abortion issue has proved difficult for Northern Irish politicians to grasp, with very few mainstream politicians openly seeking to change the laws, despite polls consistently showing that Northern Irish people want reform.
According to the Alliance for Choice group, which campaigns for free, safe, legal abortion access in Ireland north and south: "Abortion is devolved under Justice as it is primarily seen as a criminal matter in NI,not a health one. However human rights are NOT devolved and the UK GVMT remains responsible for international human rights obligations. #CEDAW [Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women] previously said devolution should not be a barrier."
This, combined with the fact that the Northern Irish Assembly is currently not operating, means that the British Government and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can intervene and legislate for abortion to be made legal in Northern Ireland.
It's estimated that, every week, 28 women are forced to travel overseas from Northern Ireland to access abortion care.
Sign Amnesty International's petition here.