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Suspended SDLP councillors get own room at City Hall

By Suzanne Breen

Three SDLP councillors suspended from the party for not supporting a motion opposing the harassment of women by anti-abortion activists are to be given their own room in Belfast City Hall.

A new room is being prepared on the first floor of the building for Declan Boyle, Pat Convery, and Kate Mullan.

Their suspension almost halves the SDLP's council team - leaving the party with just four councillors in City Hall.

It is understood that a decision on how long they will remain suspended for will be taken by the party leadership after Easter.

A City Hall source said: "A room on the first floor is being prepared for the councillors with computers and phone lines.

"It gives them the facilities they need to continue functioning as councillors and it also offers them privacy."

A council spokeswoman confirmed that the room was almost ready for use.

The SDLP's remaining four councillors will continue to use the party room on the ground floor.

The three councillors were suspended last week after they abstained from voting on a motion which called for an end to the harassment of women by anti-abortion activists outside sexual health clinics.

The SDLP said they 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.

The motion was proposed by Green Party 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.

However, Declan Boyle said after the vote: "I don't support the harassment or intimidation of anybody but I do believe in standing up for the rights of the unborn.

"I am proud to be pro-life and I've absolutely no regrets about how I voted."

The SDLP responded at the time by saying: "We have a long and proud history of standing against harassment and intimidation.

"We will not compromise on that."

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