17 May 2022

Aontú Councillor slams SDLP MLAs over Abortion Bill vote

Aontú Councillor slams SDLP MLAs over Abortion Bill vote

Cllr Emmet Doyle: "The SDLP seem to want to run with the hare and hunt with the hound on the right to life."

Aontú Councillor, Emmet Doyle, has accused Foyle's SDLP MLAs of hypocrisy over pro-life protestors.

Cllr Doyle, who represents the Ballyarnett ward, stated that both Sinéad McLaughlin and Mark H Durkan were going against their party's ethos of supporting civil rights while indicating they would “vote to criminalise protestors” outside abortion facilities.

MLAs will meet on Thursday in the final sitting of the Assembly before May's election to debate and vote on The Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Bill.

The private member's bill is expected to receive enough numbers in the Assembly to be passed into law.

However, Cllr Doyle, has hit out against Ms McLaughlin and Mr Durkan saying “the SDLP seem to want to run with the hare and hunt with the hound on the right to life”.

He said: “The SDLP’s double speak on the right to life will be laid bare in the Assembly this week when their MLAs vote to criminalise people who gather outside abortion facilities to protest, pray and offer support.

“Sinéad McLaughlin has been telling the public for months this is due to people attending the Brae Clinic in the Waterside being ‘harassed’ by those holding vigil.

“Yet when challenged to provide proof of this in the form of cautions or arrests by the PSNI, she has gone silent because the figures don’t add up.

“Mark H Durkan will vote to criminalise those praying outside centres like the Brae Clinic whilst still maintaining he is pro-life.

“A blind man on a galloping horse can see that doesn’t add up.

“For a party of civil rights based on peaceful protest, the SDLP seem to want to run with the hare and hunt with the hound on the right to life but people aren’t fooled.

“Aontú is now the only Nationalist party in the North that will stand up for the right to life.”

The Private Member's Bill's sponsor, Green Party leader Claire Bailey, told the Assembly during the second reading of the bill last October, that the proposed legislation had in its origins what she witnessed as a volunteer for the Marie Stopes Clinic in Belfast a decade ago.

The Clinic, which gave advice to women who wished to discuss the options of their pregnancy, had a number of protests outside its doors with many wishing to access the premises claiming they were physically and verbally intimidated by the protestors.

Ms Bailey told the Assembly in October of her own experience saying: “I was spat at, I had holy water splashed on me, I was verbally abused and I had one young woman who was so distressed she ran into four lanes of oncoming traffic to escape the protestors.”

The SDLP responded to Cllr Doyle's comments saying that it was in light of this that everyone should access healthcare facilities – for whatever reason – without intimidation.

A spokesperson for the party said: “The SDLP and our representatives believe that everyone attending hospitals and healthcare settings for whatever reason should be able to do so with privacy and dignity.

“While not every demonstration is intimidating people, those involved may be unaware of the impact they are having.

“Everyone has the right to free speech and protest, but they should not be allowed to infringe on the rights of others when doing so.

“We have engaged with those affected by these protests, including those who have been re-traumatised by graphic images on display and believe this legislation will help protect the public, while allowing people to protest in an appropriate and respectful way.”

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