The Northern Ireland Assembly has been suspended the past two years due to a dispute between the two major governing parties. It was not able to do business by Oct. 21. The nationalist Social Democratic Labour Party walked out of the final critical meeting. Sinn Fein, did not participate in the meeting, nor did the Green Party and the People Before Profit party.
Sinn Fein, which also backs abortion rights and same-sex "marriage," has said that it will not participate in the formation of a Northern Irish government without an Irish Language Act, which would give Irish equal status to English in the region.
Other nationalist parties back such an act, while unionist parties oppose it.
Jim Wells, a Member of the Legislative Assembly in Northern Ireland and a member of the Democratic Unionist Party, has called for referenda to address the new changes.
"I and many others strongly believe that both issues should be made the subject of referenda which will give the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to have their say," Wells said, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
"There is huge concern in the community about the total lack of consultation prior to these changes and a sense of anger that they were unable to have their views considered in advance of October 21," he continued. "They were forced through late at night by others who had little or no understanding of the values of the people of this part of the United Kingdom.
The Democratic Unionist Party is part of the Conservative coalition U.K. government now headed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. At the time the legislation passed, Theresa May was Prime Minister.
Wells' comments drew criticism from pro-abortion rights campaigners such as Naomi Connor, co-convener of Alliance for Choice. She said a referendum would not be legally binding on the grounds that there is no written constitution and it would constitute a plebiscite.
Connor claimed that legal abortion is a matter of human rights.
"Human rights are not an a la carte menu that Mr Wells can pick and choose from and these matters should not be decided by referenda," she said, according to the Belfast Telegraph.
She said that successive Northern Ireland governments "failed women and pregnant people repeatedly by refusing to legislate for abortion provision." She said his stand forced women to travel to the U.K. for abortions "in stigma and shame."
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Connor said it was "highly insensitive" for Wells to make comments near the anniversary of the October 2012 death of Savita Halappanavar, who died of an infection after reportedly asking for an abortion at University Hospital Galway. Doctors refused an abortion because the baby still had a heartbeat. Halappanavar later died of a severe antibiotic-resistant infection.
Pro-abortion rights campaigners have charged she was wrongly denied an abortion that they say would have saved her life.
An inquest found multiple communications failures during her treatment while also recommending changes in guidelines for doctors to save the life of the mother.