Monday 14 October 2019

DUP leader claims Sinn Féin voters will back her party due to abortion stance

Yes campaigners calling for abortion rights in the North during the referendum count in Dublin Castle
Yes campaigners calling for abortion rights in the North during the referendum count in Dublin Castle
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

DUP leader Arlene Foster has claimed that some republican voters will support her party in future elections due to Sinn Féin's stance on abortion.

Meanwhile, the former Northern Ireland first minister also said she found some of the celebrations following the Yes win in the abortion referendum "distasteful".

Abortions are currently only allowed in Northern Ireland in strict circumstances if the life or mental health of the mother is at risk. The passing of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment here has led to calls for more liberal laws north of the Border and for Westminster to intervene amid the continuing absence of the Northern Ireland power-sharing Assembly.

Sinn Féin supported a Yes vote in the referendum and last night said the prospect of its voters switching allegiance to the DUP over the abortion issue was "not credible".

Ms Foster told Sky News that the issue of abortion was not a matter for Westminster and that it should be discussed by the Northern Ireland Assembly when it gets back up and running.

She said she and her party have a right to hold different views to others on abortion, saying "that's called tolerance".

"I have had emails from people in the Republic of Ireland feeling very disenfranchised, can't quite believe what has happened.

"I have had emails from nationalists and republicans in Northern Ireland not quite believing what is going on and saying they will be voting for the DUP because they believe we are the only party that supports the unborn."

It was put to Ms Foster that people would find it hard to believe some Sinn Féin voters would vote for the DUP.

Ms Foster said people vote for different reasons.

"For some people this is the number one issue for them when it comes to casting their vote.

"I think it would be wrong not to acknowledge that there will be those who, in my own constituency and right across Northern Ireland who feel so very strongly about this issue, that they will cast their vote on that basis."

Last night a Sinn Féin spokesperson said abortion is "not a unionist versus nationalist issue".

"It affects women from all communities. It is about coming at the issue with compassion and respect, trusting women and their doctors."

The statement added: "While there are some with strongly held views, it is not credible to suggest that it will make republicans become unionists.

"Just as it is not credible to suggest that unionists who support and trust women on this issue will become republicans.

"It is simply a wrong that needs put right," the Sinn Féin statement added.

Ms Foster also criticised some of the celebrations after the Yes win in the referendum.

"Abortion is a very emotive subject, a very sensitive subject and therefore it deserves serious discussion and a serious, mature debate.

"It certainly does not deserve the antics that we've seen recently...I did find it, I have to say, quite distasteful to see people dancing about on the streets in relation to the referendum results."

Health Minister Simon Harris said there has been revisionism among those claiming the atmosphere since the result was over-celebratory.

"It certainly wasn't a celebration, it was emotion and there was pure relief in people's eyes with tears not far from the surface," he said.

Irish Independent

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