Press Releases

Press Release on Ashers Judgement

Today’s landmark supreme court case is a win for everyone

The Iona Institute NI welcomes the unanimous decision by the UK supreme court which today ruled that the McArthur family did not discriminate against a gay rights activist in politely refusing to ice a cake with the slogan ‘support gay marriage’.

According to Tracy Harkin, spokesperon for the Iona Institute NI, “This case pursued  by the equality commission which cost N.Ireland taxpayers £360,000, was  deliberately framed  as an LGBT rights issue”.

“As the judgement today  clearly  highlighted however, the  McArthurs’ objection was not to Mr Lee himself, but to being required to write a political slogan”.

“The McArthurs have maintained all along that they did not refuse to serve Mr Lee because he was gay or because he supported gay marriage.Their objection was to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed”.

“The rights to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion are the hallmark of any genuinely  pluralist and democratic society.No one should ever be forced to express a political opinion they disagree with”.

“We hope this incredibly important ruling will not only send a clear message regarding the misuse of equality law but importantly help to protect against the spectre of compelled speech in N.I. and throughout the UK”.


For further info contact

Tracy Harkin

Office: 028 92 646861

Mobile: 07531149891


Blog, News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

Westminster MPs in massive abortion push in NI

Iona Institute NI is deeply saddened that a letter has been sent by Stella Creasey to Amber Rudd, the minister for women and equalities and the home office, on behalf of over 130 MPs calling on the minster to ensure comprehensive access to abortion for women in Northern Ireland. We note the letter cites frequently the recent CEDAW report 23/2/18 condemning NI’s pro-life laws as violating the human rights of women.

As spokeswoman Tracy Harkin says, not a single NI MP has signed this letter. At a time when the news is overflowing with reports on talks to get the devolved institutions up and running again, what we have here are a number of non-local MPs proposing to legislate for NI without the consent of our own MPs. It is highly ironic that these MPs would seek to legislate for NI in this respect.

Tracy continues, there is no international treaty, convention, or law which stipulates that abortion is a human right. The authors of the letter to the Rt Hon Rudd note on several occasions that their stance is based on CEDAW’s flawed interpretation of international human rights law, but not in fact on any actual concrete law or legislative framework that is currently in place. Effectively what we have are a number of pro-abortion MPs interpreting international law to suit an agenda which would seek to bring abortion into NI without the consent of our own MPs.

The authors of the letter emphasise the criminal status of abortion here in NI and they urge its decriminalisation. But they themselves wish to see the 1967 abortion act extended to NI, yet this act itself treats abortions carried out outside of the terms of this act as a criminal matter, and thus even here it is recognised that abortion is a practice which must be regulated by criminal law. The only difference then between NI and the rest of the UK is that we in NI have a much more positive regulation of abortion with our pro-life laws than does the rest of the UK. Such pro-life laws have successfully led to the saving of at least 100,000 of our citizens. By contrast, 1 in 5 healthy pregnancies in the rest of the UK end in abortion, not to mention the high percentage of terminations performed where a disability has been detected.

Tracy further adds, it is particularly sad that this letter has emerged on international women’s day. A day in which we should be rejoicing at the presence of women in leadership roles and positions of responsibility in our society. This is especially pertinent to us here in NI where our pro-life laws have saved the lives of at least 100,000 citizens, and in the Island of Ireland in general which is recognised internationally as one of the safest places in the world in which to be pregnant. Unfortunately, our culture of caring for the lives of both mother and baby are under considerable attack. We rejoice however in the leadership role women of all ages continue to play in the pro-life movement north and south. On this international women’s day we will continue to reject abortion as a solution to any crisis, and embrace a truly compassionate and progressive culture in which both lives are recognised, protected, and respected in law and practice

We would urge our NI MPs to speak strongly and proudly in defence of our pro-life laws, and not to be intimidated by those who would push their interpretation of human rights laws as the standard by which they are to be implemented.

News, Press Releases

It’s Valentine’s Day and ‘Love is in The Air’ – but many couples in NI are too poor to tie the knot

New paper highlights huge marriage gap between social classes

60 pc of upper professional workers are married but less than a third of unskilled workers

Except for Christmas Day, Valentine’s Day is the most popular date for couples to get engaged.

But many couples in Northern Ireland are just too poor to tie the knot, according to a new report by The Iona Institute.

Entitled ‘Mind the Gap: Marriage and Family by Social Class in Northern Ireland’, the report shows that for many of the more socially disadvantaged in Northern Ireland the dream of walking down the aisle will never become a reality.

The figures, derived from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) show that 60.7% of upper professional workers (‘Social Class A’) aged 18-49 are married, compared with just 32.7% of unskilled or elementary workers (‘Social Class I’).

Workers in professional occupations are almost twice as likely as unskilled workers to be married.

The huge discrepancy indicates that there are formidable social impediments to marrying if you are from a socially disadvantaged group. The report also shows that with one exception (plant and machine operatives (‘Social Class H’), the likelihood of being married becomes progressively less as we move down the social scale.

Commenting on the figures, Tracy Harkin of the Iona Institute said: “These impediments need to be fully explored and, where possible, removed. Anyone who believes in the importance of marriage should be deeply concerned about these figures. Why is it that the better off a person is, the more likely they are to be married, and the less well-off they are, the less likely they are to be married? Social disadvantage clearly diminishes a person’s chances of marrying and not marrying in turn increases the odds of remaining socially disadvantaged. It is a vicious circle and it is one that obviously affects children as well.

“A US study* by one of that country’s most esteemed social scientists has shown that if Americans married at the same rate as in 1970, rates of poverty in that country would diminish by between 20% and 30%.”

Tracy continued: “A key factor driving down the odds of marrying for those who are most socially disadvantaged is poorly paid insecure jobs. People are less likely to marry if they feel financially insecure. There are also disincentives to marry built into the social welfare system. It can be more financially advantageous for two people on social welfare to remain single than to marry.

“We ought to be able to agree that the big marriage divide which exists between the social classes is a matter of grave concern, something that must be tackled by our politicians, other policy-makers and opinion-formers.

Tracy Harkin concluded: “This is an issue of justice and of equality and cries out for public debate that will, hopefully, help us all to work to close the marriage gap between the poor and the better off in Northern Ireland”.

* Brooking Institute


Notes to editors

The report entitled “Mind the Gap: Marriage and Family by Social Class in Northern Ireland” by The Iona Institute is attached as a pdf.

[PDF Download] Mind the Gap: Marriage and Family by Social Class in Northern Ireland

The report focuses on the age group 18-49 because this is the age group in which people start their families.

The Iona Institute is a Christian advocacy group and research body.

Contact details

Tracy Harkin is available for interview:

Contact Tracy on 0753 1149891

News, Press Releases

[Report] Mind the Gap: Marriage and Family by Social Class in Northern Ireland

The Iona Institute has just launched a new report showing that a huge marriage gap exists in Northern Ireland (as in the South) between the most advantaged and disadvantaged groups in society. Those in the upper income groups are twice as likely to be married as those in the bottom income groups. This gap is much bigger than the gender pay gap which causes so much concern. The marriage gap must be highlighted and debate. Our report is a contribution to that.

You can read our report, and what is gap means.

Download the full report by clicking the link below;

[PDF Download] Mind the Gap: Marriage and Family by Social Class in Northern Ireland

Media, Press Releases

Response to Labour MPs visit to Belfast to discuss abortion law reform

The Iona Institute is disappointed to hear of a delegation of Labour MPs coming to Belfast today to meet with Amnesty International and the Family Planning Association – two organisations which have for many years been promoting the liberalisation of Northern Ireland’s abortion laws. Abortion is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland and repeated votes of the democratically elected Northern Ireland Assembly have been to retain our existing law – most recently in February 2016. The question has to be asked : why is the Labour party interfering at a delicate time in the political talks by promoting the failed policy of abortion here?

The Labour Party does not operate in Northern Ireland and its sister party the SDLP has a pro-life policy which specifically excludes the extension of the Abortion Act 1967 to Northern Ireland.

For 50 years the Abortion Act has operated in England and Wales and the consequences have been severe for mothers, babies, fathers and society in general. There have been 8.8 million abortions – the entire population of London; there is 1 abortion every three minutes; 1 in 5 pregnancies end in abortion; and there is abortion for disability up to birth. An alarming 38% of the 200 000 women who had abortions last year, had already had at least one abortion.

It is sad to see an organisation such as Amnesty International -which was set up to promote human rights -now fighting for completely unrestricted abortion- ending the lives of the most vulnerable human beings.

If the Labour party truly had the interests of NI women at heart it would be prioritising the return of the NI Assembly and it would be engaging in a conversation with the many women who oppose the liberalisation of our abortion laws.


Contact Tracy Harkin – Tel 07531 149891

The discussion on The Nolan Show earlier today is available here;