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Live Reporting

Ciaran McCauley and Robin Sheeran

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye, for now

    That's it from our live coverage of today's action at Stormont, the first such parliamentary session in more than 1,000 days.


    It remains to be seen quite how long it'll be before Stormont returns again but stay across BBC News NI online and on social media for all the latest news and reaction to today's high drama. In the meantime, thanks for joining us.

  2. High drama another possible blow to Stormont's battered image

    Gareth Gordon

    BBC News NI Political Correspondent

    It was a high stakes move, ultimately doomed to failure.

    But the last ditch attempt by the DUP and others to stave off the new abortion laws coming into effect at midnight exposed the divisions that have prevented Stormont from operating for almost three years.

    With lightning haste, they attempted to introduce something called the Defence of the Unborn Child Bill 2019, which they hoped to force through by midnight.

    Arlene Foster

    But Speaker Robin Newton - himself a DUP MLA - stubbornly resisted attempts to allow this to happen. Nothing could proceed without the cross-community election of a new Speaker.

    With that the SDLP walked out, and then the DUP. The session ended soon after, with nothing to stop the laws from changing at midnight.

    But as to what the events of the day have done for the already battered image of the assembly, and attempts to restore it, we can only guess.

  3. Sinn Féin calls for 'intensive talks'

    MIchelle O'Neill, Sinn Féin's vice-president, tells reporters it had been "a hugely historic day".

    She describes the events that unfolded in the assembly chamber as "political stunts".

    Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill
    Image caption: Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill

    Party leader Mary Lou McDonald says it was a "circus and a farce" and adds it would have been far better if the legislation had been changed in the assembly.

    "I think if today demonstrates one thing it's (that) we now need a serious, intensive talks process," she says.

    "We support and welcome the decriminalisation of women that will take effect from midnight."

  4. The abortion bill that never was

    The Speaker's ruling that there could be no debate until after the election of his replacement meant the proposed Protection of the Unborn Child Bill was never debated - here's the text of the bill...

    View more on twitter
  5. The law changes - what you need to know

    With Stormont's recall having ended in walkouts and recrimination, laws on abortion and same-sex marriage are due to change at midnight tonight.

    Abortion will be decriminalised while, under the same act, same-sex marriage will become legal in Northern Ireland in January, with the first wedding expected the next month.

    Abortion/same-sex marriage

    Under current abortion law, a termination is only permitted in Northern Ireland if a woman's life is at risk or if there is a risk of permanent or serious damage to her mental or physical health.

    Rape, incest or diagnoses of fatal fetal abnormality - where medics believe that a baby will die before, during or shortly after birth - are not grounds for a legal abortion in Northern Ireland.

  6. UUP withdraws names from its own recall petition

    So after the brief return of Stormont, what now?

    Well, the UUP had said before today that they had tabled a petition to bring Stormont back again tomorrow to discuss moves to revive the assembly.

    Robin Swann

    But towards the tail end of today's proceedings, UUP leader Robin Swann said that, while the party had gathered the necessary 30 signatures, they had withdrawn their own names from the petition due to "what we've seen here today".

    We're still waiting to hear whether the petition, which Arlene Foster has said the DUP supported, will force another Stormont recall tomorrow...

  7. Greens and People Before Profit stayed away

    Ciara Colhoun

    BBC News NI

    Just to confirm - two of Stormont's smaller parties, the Greens and People Before Profit, did not attend today's session, as expected.

    The Green Party criticised the move "to deny reproductive rights".

    View more on twitter

    Meanwhile, Gerry Carroll and Fiona Ferguson, People Before Profit MLAs, dismissed today’s proceedings as “shameful” and a “last-ditch stunt by the DUP to block rights”.

    “We will not be taking part in that today”.

  8. 'A complete and utter disgrace' - Alliance

    Alliance Party's deputy leader Stephen Farry says today's events at Stormont had been a "complete and utter disgrace".

    He says the session, which his party did not attend, had been an attempt to rip up the rules of the assembly.

    Stephen Farry

    The North Down MLA adds what is needed is "a proper assembly with an executive and one that can pass proper, scrutinised legislation".

    He called for talks to be reconvened to get the assembly up and running..

  9. Why did Stormont collapse in 2017?

    Today's sitting at Stormont was the first one in almost three years, after devolved government collapsed in January 2017.

    It came after the resignation of Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister. He cited the DUP's conduct around the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme as his main reason for quitting.

    Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster
    Image caption: Martin McGuinness and Arlene Foster prior to the collapse of the executive

    That meant DUP leader Arlene Foster lost her job as first minister and triggered the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

    A lengthy public inquiry into the RHI scheme has yet to report.

    Several rounds of talks aimed at resurrecting the assembly and executive have come to nothing, foundering on the issues of same-sex marriage and an Irish Language Act.

  10. 'This is a dark day' - Jim Allister

    Speaking after the suspension, TUV leader Jim Allister says it's "an exceptionally dark day for one community in Northern Ireland and that's the community of the unborn".

    Jim Allister

    Mr Allister says today's events underscored "the fundamental absurdity of the governmental arrangements in Northern Ireland".

  11. No takers for the Speaker's job - and that's that

    The Speaker

    With only a handful of members remaining in the chamber, the Speaker announces the election of a new speaker.

    He asks for nominations. There are none.

    The UUP leave the chamber and business is suspended. The first Stormont session in almost three years comes to an end.

  12. 'It's a very sad day' - Foster

    DUP leader Arlene Foster tells reporters gathered outside the assembly chamber that those celebrating today's law change should "think about those of us who are sad today and who believe this is affront to human dignity and human life".

    Arlene Foster

    She says they hoped to suspend standing orders to debate the legislation but that was "not to be" but that they would continue to take legal advice as it is such a "critical matter for the lives of the unborn here in Northern Ireland".

  13. DUP members walk out of the chamber

    The DUP leaves the chamber

    DUP leader Arlene Foster says Northern Ireland will have the most "liberal abortion laws anywhere in Europe" and describes it as a "shameful day".

    "This not the end of the matter," she vows.

    She then leads her MLAs out of the chamber.

  14. SDLP walking out of the chamber

    SDLP leader Colum Eastwood says his party will not participate in this "stunt any longer" - and with that he and his party's MLAs get on their feet and walk out of the chamber.

    Stormont chamber

    Prior to the walkout, Mr Eastwood said no executive could be formed without the presence of Sinn Féin members.

    He said it was the Good Friday Agreement's clear view that the best way to make changes to any legislation is within the executive and the other institutions and it should not happen within any shadow assembly.

    Following the walkout, there are now no nationalist representation in the Stormont chamber.

  15. Speaker legal advice 'confidential and privileged'

    DUP MLA Paul Givan and leader Arlene Foster have been pressing Speaker Robin Newton - a DUP MLA himself - to suspend the sitting and consult Attorney General John Larkin.

    View more on twitter

    But he resists those calls, saying he's happy with the "confidential and privileged" advice he has been offered.

  16. Who is in the Stormont chamber?

    As expected, the DUP and UUP are present along with TUV leader Jim Allister.

    The SDLP's MLAs are also in the chamber along with independent Claire Sugden.

    Stormont chamber

    Sinn Féin, the Alliance Party, the Green Party and People Before Profit are not at the session.