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Anti-abortion leaflets woman claims Sinn Fein official assaulted her in village

By Suzanne Breen

Published 29/03/2016

Campaigner Catherine Sewell with some of the anti-abortion leaflets yesterday
Campaigner Catherine Sewell with some of the anti-abortion leaflets yesterday

A young mother has lodged a complaint with the PSNI after she was allegedly assaulted by a Sinn Fein official at a 1916 commemoration in Co Tyrone.

Catherine Sewell is claiming that a party official pushed her and ordered her to leave the village of Carrickmore as she handed out anti-abortion leaflets on Easter Sunday.

She has reported the alleged incident to the PSNI who are investigating it.

Ms Sewell, a 33-year-old mother of three, said: "I give out these leaflets wherever I know there will be a big gathering - at football games, mass, St Patrick's Day festivities," she said.

"Occasionally, someone might be a bit argumentative and that's fine. But no one has ever assaulted me."

She is a member of the St Joseph's pro-life group in Dungannon.

The organisation has been very active in pursuing Sinn Fein since it changed its policy to support abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

Ms Sewell and her husband Ryan were in Carrickmore as the 1916 commemoration was taking place.

The couple were distributing leaflets which stated 'Never ever give your vote to an Irish politician who advocates the killing of Irish children in the womb'.

She said: "We had put about 30 leaflets on the door handles of parked cars when a Sinn Fein official came towards us shouting that we weren't allowed to do that.

"He had a leaflet in his hand.

"My husband asked, 'Why not?' and he said, 'Because I say so.'

"Ryan asked: 'Who made you the boss of Carrickmore?'

"At this stage, he pushed Ryan and myself backwards.

"Ryan told him not to put his hands on us again.

"The Sinn Fein man said that if we continued giving out the leaflets it would be us versus the hundreds of people at the parade.

"We felt very intimidated.

"We were basically chased out of the village."

The couple approached a PSNI car in Carrickmore and told them of the assault.

Ms Sewell said: "When Sinn Fein is canvassing in my area and knocks on my door at election time, I don't chase them away or threaten them with attack.

"I don't see why they shouldn't extend the same courtesy to me."

When asked about the alleged incident, a Sinn Fein spokesman said: "Sinn Fein are aware that a formal complaint has been made to the PSNI and it is now a matter for the PSNI to investigate."

A PSNI spokesman said police had received a report of an assault at around 3pm in the Drumnakilly Road area of Carrickmore.

He added that the person reporting the assault had decided they wished to pursue the complaint and that "enquiries are ongoing at this time".

During last year's Westminster election campaign, the St Joseph's pro-life group distributed 20,000 leaflets in Fermanagh and South Tyrone urging people to vote for pro-life candidates.

It claimed that it stopped Sinn Fein MP, Michelle Gildernew, from retaining her seat in the House of Commons.

Instead, it was won by the Ulster Unionists' Tom Elliott by less than 600 votes.

Two months earlier, Sinn Fein had changed its policy on abortion to support terminations in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

The law in Northern Ireland only permits abortion in very limited cases where the mother's life is at risk or there is a major risk to her mental or physical health.

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