North's AG should steer clear of politics
Bear in mind, too, that if there is any lack of clarity about the law on abortion, it is because, in the North, as in the Republic, successive ministers have gone to great lengths to avoid dealing with the issue.
Earlier this year, members of an all-party anti-abortion group met at Stormont to discuss the progress of Department of Health guidelines.
These have been long promised but show no signs of appearing.
The minutes, obtained by the BBC, suggest Larkin was advising the Executive on the matter, and the DUP’s Jim Wells (the next health minister) indicated that the Attorney General had “taken control and his views on abortion were sound”.
If the First and Deputy First Ministers, who appointed Larkin, are reticent about challenging his extraordinary view of his powers, the British government is not.
Larkin recently urged the European Court of Human Rights to have a look at Northern Ireland before it decided whether or not to rule that Austria had breached a lesbian couple’s rights by refusing to allow them to adopt their child.
In Northern Ireland, unmarried couples or civil partners, whatever their sexuality, cannot adopt, though single people, whatever their sexuality, can.
This anomaly has been declared illegal by the House of Lords and, this month, by the High Court in Belfast.
The British foreign office informed the European court that Larkin had no business making such an intervention and that the views he had expressed were not those of the British government and did not reflect the position throughout the UK.
Former solicitor general Edward Garnier, QC, told the House of Lords the government was “not happy”.
Attorneys general are expected to keep aloof from political controversy. Larkin risks being thwarted by his own stubborn arrogance.
He has complained to the justice committee because when justice was devolved to Northern Ireland, it was decided that the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions should be independent, as in the Republic, rather than under the supervision of the Attorney General, as in Britain, where, however, it is well established that the DPP is, largely, left well alone.
Larkin has done nothing to suggest that he has the maturity, nous or common sense to uphold that tradition.
An editorial in the Guardian recently on his abortion interventions suggested he needed to take care not to make his position as Attorney General untenable.