Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

Would Poots be more at home in united Ireland?

Fundamentalist: Edwin Poots
Fundamentalist: Edwin Poots

Has Edwin Poots ever considered that he might get more of what he wants in a united Ireland?

It is a tongue-in-cheek question – Mr Poots is, of course, a lifelong DUP member and now minister, but some of his recent comments do have an almost nationalist ring to them.

Here is what he said back in March, when he predicted that the Marie Stopes clinic would point the way to "abortion on demand".

"The outworkings of that in Great Britain have been that almost seven million abortions have been carried out since 1967. That is equivalent to more than the population of Ireland."

He explained: "If this is the backwoods, I am glad that we are in it, because I do not want to go down a route that the places that I have just mentioned [the UK and USA] have gone already. It is clearly a wrong and a dangerous place to be."

There is a clear hint here that the UK is 'a wrong and dangerous place to be' in at least some respects. Abortion law is far tougher in the Republic than in Britain, arguably tougher than it is here.

In a united Ireland, there would also be no problem with a lifelong ban on gay men giving blood. The south has one already.

Mr Poots pointed this out when he quoted James Reilly, the Irish health minister, in defence of his position, which is being undermined and branded 'irrational' by the British courts.

Short of unity, going in to a cross-border blood donation scheme with the Republic and breaking the link with the British system on that issue would be the only way he could avoid having to import UK blood – some of it given by gay men – into Northern Ireland.

There is no same-sex adoption in the Republic either, though there are rumblings that they are thinking of changing that law next year and a referendum on same-sex marriage is scheduled for 2015.

Perhaps they need Mr Poots to boost the efforts of his proud fellow backwoodsmen and women to argue the case against reform.

All joking aside, there are dangers, from a unionist perspective, in pursuing such a fundamentalist agenda.

For people in the rest of the UK, it makes Northern Ireland look and feel like a foreign country – a 1950s-themed backwoods, in fact.

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