Friday 22 March 2019

Law officer likens abortion to 'shooting a baby in head'

Alan Murray

THE North's attorney-general is being heavily criticised for likening abortion to shooting a baby in the back of the head shortly after birth.

Following his comments, John Larkin is now being urged to withdraw his offer to assist a Stormont committee to question staff at a new family-planning clinic opened in Belfast last week.

Mr Larkin, a leading senior barrister before he was appointed by Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness to the near-£200,000-a-year (€240,000) post, clashed with the director of the Marie Stopes clinic during a radio broadcast four years ago.

He criticised Dawn Purvis's position and said that destroying a highly disabled child in the womb was akin to "putting a bullet in the back of the head of the child two days after it is born".

She responded by saying that he was attempting to "criminalise women" who sought terminations and that his language was brutal.

When Mr Larkin's comments were replayed on radio and television on Friday they were criticised by both unionist and nationalist politicians.

Sinn Fein's Caitriona Ruane described them as "wholly inappropriate" while the leader of the Unionist Party, Mike Nesbitt, said the comments and Mr Larkin's offer to assist Stormont's justice committee in questioning Ms Purvis about the role of the clinic raised the issue of the attorney-general's role.

The committee agreed to invite representatives from the Marie Stopes Clinic to outline how they would comply with local legislation, which forbids abortion except where the life of the mother is in jeopardy.

The SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell stressed that Mr Larkin was speaking as a private citizen.

He said: "If John Larkin expressed views as a private citizen, they are the views of a private citizen. He has not expressed those views as attorney general. I have no doubt that as attorney-general he will do his job."

Mr Larkin, the chief legal advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive, wrote to the justice committee, inviting it to investigate the operations of the Marie Stopes clinic.

Mr Larkin declined to respond to the criticism of his comments.

Sunday Independent

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