Belfast Telegraph

Suspended SDLP trio may not attend council meeting

By Suzanne Breen

Three Belfast SDLP councillors suspended from the party are not likely to attend tonight's council meeting, City Hall insiders have said.

The councillors' no-show will almost half the party's representation at the meeting, leaving it with just four members on its benches.

Councillors Declan Boyle, Pat Convery and Kate Mullan were suspended for not supporting a motion opposing the harassment of women by anti-abortion activists.

The trio abstained from the motion, proposed by the Green Party, calling for an end to the intimidation of women outside sexual health clinics.

The SDLP's four other councillors supported the resolution.

It is understood that no decision has yet been taken by the party leadership on how long the councillors will be suspended for.

They have already been allocated their own room in City Hall which offers them separate facilities from other SDLP councillors.

The motion at last month's council meeting was proposed by Green councillor, Georgina Milne, who said she had been contacted by clinics concerned that people entering them were being forced to "run a gauntlet of intimidation and harassment".

She insisted that the motion was not about an individual's position on abortion but about condemning the intimidation of women.

The SDLP claimed that Mr Boyle, Mr Convery and Ms Mullan had defied instructions from party headquarters to back the resolution.

They were the only councillors not to vote for the motion, which received the support of the DUP.

Speaking after his suspension, Councillor Boyle defended how he voted.

"I don't support the harassment or intimidation of anybody but I do believe in standing up for the rights of the unborn," he said. "I am proud to be pro-life and I've absolutely no regrets about how I voted."

But the SDLP said it had a proud history of standing against intimidation and would not compromise on that.

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