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Now for Northern Ireland

IRISH women can be congratulated on the outcome of Friday’s referendum on repealing the ban on abortions in their country.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar will be hoping to take credit for holding the vote, using it to gloss over his government’s right-wing economic record with a progressive sheen, but the victory is the result of years of fearless campaigning by women who refused to be intimidated by the power of patriarchy.

In the Irish republic the struggle will now move to the implementation of the referendum result and our Irish sisters know they have the support and solidarity of the British labour movement in that struggle.

The overwhelming mandate for change highlights the anachronism of laws in Northern Ireland, where women are still denied the right to terminate pregnancies.

As Labour’s Jonathan Ashworth says, this situation is surely unsustainable now that women in the rest of Ireland are set to join women in Britain, which continues to rule the territory, in enjoying that right.

Nonetheless, Theresa May has made it clear she will resist any bid by MPs to vote on liberalising laws in the north.

She knows full well that a majority even in her own party would favour such a move — as has been made clear by Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt.

But she cannot risk the collapse of her shaky alliance with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has made it clear it will block any reform.

Hiding behind Westminster’s role as a “caretaker” administration in the north because of the continuing absence of a Stormont government is a poor excuse when May has done nothing to press the DUP to address republican concerns and restore power-sharing in Belfast.

The Alliance for Choice will be continuing its campaign to press politicians within Northern Ireland to change their ways, and is entitled to whatever assistance comrades in Britain can provide, including by confronting the issue directly in Parliament.

If that splits the Tory Party, ends the DUP alliance and forces new elections in Britain, so much the better.

 

Andy Tsege is free

ETHIOPIA’S decision to pardon and release Andy Tsege, a British citizen who was kidnapped abroad in order to be jailed in the country, is a welcome end to a long-standing injustice.

Addis Ababa would not have released Tsege without the pressure it has faced from below with mass protests against the government forcing the prime minister from office last week.

But his freedom is also down to the dogged campaigning of his family and supporters over here — including that of his MP, now leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn consistently highlighted Tsege’s plight, including by planning a delegation to Ethiopia to visit him that was only called off when the authorities made it clear they would not be permitted access.

That commitment to justice has been displayed too in his relentless campaigning for the release of other innocent prisoners such as Shaker Aamer, the British resident locked up in the US concentration camp of Guantanamo Bay without trial for over 13 years until his release in 2015.

The contrast with May, whose indifference to the fate of Britons jailed abroad is matched by her zeal to deport people from our own shores whether or not they have a right to be here, is stark.

The Tsege story is one more reminder why we need to replace the Prime Minister with the most principled leader of the opposition our country has seen.

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