17 May 2022

County Derry election candidate would 'dramatically restrict' abortion access

61% of candidates in the county's three constituencies said they would vote against providing abortion services.

County Derry election candidate would 'dramatically restrict' access to abortion services

The survey was run by local pro-choice group Alliance for Choice Derry.

An County Derry candidate in the upcoming Assembly Election has said he would 'dramatically restrict' access to abortion services, and that they should be 'funded privately'.

Niall Murphy, who is standing as an independent in the East Derry constituency, made the comments in response to a survey from pro-choice group Alliance for Choice Derry.

The group surveyed all candidates standing in the upcoming election, asking them to indicate whether they would vote in favour of abortion access 'as outlined in The Abortion (NI) Regulations 2020'.

Candidates were offered an opportunity to provide footnotes explaining their response, and Mr Murphy used the footnotes to say he would 'take the temperature' of his constituency.

“Unless there was overwhelming support for it - and I don't believe there would be - on principle I would vote against this or any such legislation,” he said.

“I believe the legislation fails women, unborn children, fathers, families and the wider society. Any legislation that allows for abortions up to 26 weeks is an absolute outrage.

Independent candidate for East Derry, Niall Murphy.

“While I do not think it is practical to seek a full prohibition of abortion services, I would seek to dramatically restrict availability for any such services in Northern Ireland - including the removal of any public funds, save for hospital-based medical emergencies.

“If it is to happen it should be funded privately,” he added.

Foyle's UUP candidate, Ryan McCready, said he recognised 'each individual has their own beliefs'.

“Whilst I personally disagree with abortion beyond the heart beat (with exception on medical grounds, incest, rape or fatal foetus abnormalities) I value the life of the baby and the mother and must advocate to protect both,” he said.

“But I also recognise and understand that each individual has their own beliefs and must make their own informed choices in life.

“I must legislate fairly for those I represent and take the following political position:Abortion services are required in consultation with medical professionals and ought to be safe, legal and accessible.

“Additionally, there needs to mental health provisions and support for woman and families who are going through this process.

“I would advocate early family planning and sexual education for young people. This would include access to contraceptives.

“I would need to read each bill on the particulars and make an informed decision,” he added.

Mr McCready's party colleague in Mid Ulster, Meta Graham, said she understood it was not a 'simple black and white issue'.

“My answer is that if elected I would not vote for abortion access as I am pro life,” she said.

“I understand that this is not a simple black and white issue and that there are grey areas such as if the mothers life was in danger, in that instance I would not want to let the mother die but would want to try to save both lives.

“I remember the case in the South where, I believe it was an Indian lady, died because she could not have a termination.

“I thought if that was my daughter, I would want to do everything I could to save her and the child. To me, that is the only reason it should be given any consideration at all."

The three candidates were among 61% across the county's three constituencies – East Derry, Foyle and Mid Ulster - who indicated they would not vote in favour of abortion access.

Foyle, the most urban of the three constituencies, had the highest percentage of pro-choice candidates (41%), with 57% indicating a 'No' response.

In Mid Ulster, 29% of candidates said they would vote in favour, with 71% voting against, while East Derry recorded the lowest percentage of support among its candidates.

Just 25% indicated they would vote in favour of abortion access, with 56% against and three candidates – Russell Watton, Darryl Wilson and Claire Sugden – indicating no response.

Mid Ulster had the lowest percentage of indicated support for abortion access, with just 29% of candidates voting in favour, and 71% against.

All Sinn Féin candidates across the three constituencies were recorded as a 'No' vote, with the party providing a statement to Alliance for Choice clarifying their response and saying no vote was required.

“Sinn Féin's policy is about enacting modern healthcare and ending the mistreatment of women,” said a spokesperson.

“Westminster has legislated for abortion services in the North because of the blockages by the DUP and others in the Executive and Assembly.

“No Assembly vote is required on the Regulations. We have advocated and will continue to advocate for the urgent commisioning of those services."

A 'Yes' vote was recorded for East Derry PUP candidate Russell Watton, with Alliance for Choice Derry clarifying this was the party position, but that party candidates are not whipped on the issue.

When contacted by Derry Now, Mr Watton said he had 'problems' with the legislation and that he had not indicated a response to the survey.

In terms of the other party positions, the survey says the DUP, TUV and Aontú oppose the Abortion (NI) Regulations 2020, while the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP operate a 'vote of conscience' policy.

Both the Green Party and People Before Profit are 'pro-choice' and in favour of the Regulations.

Across all of Northern Ireland's 18 constituencies, 39% (94) of candidates said they would vote in favour of the Regulations, with 51% (122) indicating they would vote against.

10% (23) have not yet responded to the survey.

Alliance for Choice Derry said they acknowledge that 'conversations and lobbying' were still ongoing.

“Where political parties have expressed a singular stance with regard to abortion reform, we have attributed that stance to every MLA candidate from that party,” they said.

“With regard to independents and candidates from parties that treat abortion as a conscience issue, we have recorded their responses on an individual basis.

“We have contacted independent/"issue of conscience" candidates through either email, telephone or messages on their social media platforms.

“We have left the entry blank for candidates who are yet to reply.

“Further, with this spreadsheet we acknowledge that conversations and lobbying are ongoing and that MLA candidate stances on abortion can and do change due to the hard work of pro-choice lobbyists.”

The full list of candidate responses for all constituencies can be found by visiting the Alliance for Choice Derry Facebook page.

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