SF accused of double standard on terminations

Michelle O'Neill Picture: PA

Kevin Doyle

Abortion campaigners in Northern Ireland criticised Sinn Féin for what they see as a double standard in the party's approach to the issue.

While Sinn Féin is calling for the liberalisation of abortion in the North, the party has rejected suggestions that Theresa May's Westminster government should intervene.

Abortion laws are under the control of the Stormont Assembly which hasn't sat in almost 18 months. The DUP is against any change to the regime.

Its leader, Arlene Foster, has criticised scenes of celebration in Dublin which were beamed around the world after last Friday's referendum.

Emma Campbell, a spokesperson with Alliance 4 Choice in the North, said it was wrong that both Sinn Féin and the DUP were refusing to take any immediate action.

"It is disappointing that Sinn Féin were vocally supportive of this in the south but suddenly won't engage with Westminster," she said.

"Michelle O'Neill [Sinn Féin deputy leader] is playing one game in the North and another one in the south. Women's rights are not a bandwagon."

Ms Campbell said Northern Ireland found itself in a difficult position because of "three arms - the south, one in the North and one in England".

"It's a very awkward jurisdiction - you are neither fish nor fowl. You are either too British or too Irish."

She said the DUP's stance on the issue does not reflect the reality of opinion polls which say 73pc of voters would support some change in the law.

Mrs May has faced cross-party calls to deliver more rights to women north of the Border.

However, she is not keen to get involved as the issue would inevitably cause a row with the DUP, whose 10 MPs underpin her minority government.

Meanwhile, a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party last night lauded Health Minister Simon Harris for his stewardship of the referendum campaign.

Junior minister Sean Kyne said Mr Harris was Fine Gael's "best communicator, bar none".

Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny was also praised for establishing the Citizens' Assembly and Oireachtas committee.