Belfast Telegraph

Alliance Party conference: Nearly 75% want abortion law liberalised

By Liam Clarke

Alliance party activists attending the annual conference showed overwhelming support for a liberalisation of abortion law here.

Activists were fairly liberal on other issues and almost exactly matched the overall population on issues of national identity.

The Belfast Telegraph carried out a poll at the party's annual conference, on a range of issues.

When we asked 50 party members out of about 250 at the conference, nearly three quarters (74%) supported the proposition that "abortion should be available to any woman who chooses it after being counselled on the available alternatives".

This position on abortion law is normally known as "a woman's right to choose".

It is similar to the liberal abortion legislation elsewhere in the UK. When we last asked this question in a full LucidTalk poll in 2012, the proportion of the population choosing this option was far lower at 26% but support has been rising in recent years.

Alliance members surveyed were nearly unanimous that abortion should be permitted where a foetus is unlikely to survive birth. Some 92% supported this proposition with only 4% actively opposing it. Alliance allows elected representatives a free vote on the issue. Naomi Long, the MP for East Belfast, has publicly opposed any liberalisation of our strict abortion laws while Anna Lo, the Euro candidate, supports a woman's right to choose.

Last week Ms Lo also supported Irish unity by consent. That issue overshadowed conference coverage but only one in five delegates said that they would vote for Irish unity in a referendum.

Slightly fewer (18%) carry an Irish passport while 66% had UK travel documents. Some of the remaining 16% said they held both passports or had no passport at all.

These figures were in line with the general population. In last year's Belfast Telegraph LucidTalk Poll, 26% of respondents said they would favour Irish unity either now or in 20 years. The census showed 21% of people in Northern Ireland hold Irish passports.

The vast majority, 86%, would wear a poppy for Remembrance.

In two questions, delegates were asked to rate something on a scale of one to five and an overall figure was calculated. This produced a figure of +42, very strong support, for Alliance staying in the Executive where it has two ministries. But the same delegates thought that the Assembly was actually performing worse than direct rule, and gave it a score of -8.

When we asked delegates who they would vote for after Ms Lo in the European election, Ross Brown of the Greens was favourite (46%) followed by NI21 and SDLP (both 20%) while the UUP were trailing on 2%. The DUP, Sinn Fein and UKIP each scored nul points.

Delegates were split on whether marijuana should be legalised, with 44% for and 46% against but younger members were most likely to favour changing the law.

Some 80% believed Northern Ireland was a better place to live in than it was five years ago.

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