Ian Paisley: 'Letter from priest is proof voters will look to DUP to uphold the rights of the unborn'
Writing exclusively for the Belfast Telegraph, Ian Paisley MP reveals details of the letter he received from a priest urging Catholics to vote for DUP because of its anti-abortion stance
As a Member of Parliament I am used to opening hundreds of letters and emails each day. It's an interesting and varied mail bag and I still get a sense of excitement at what the postman will bring. Imagine my surprise when opening my mail to find a letter carefully typed on private notepaper from a local priest who started off congratulating me for a recent TV appearance. I was hooked and read on.
He kindly referenced my father's great work as my predecessor, stating: "It is important, in this area, of North Antrim, that your father was highly respected, for his great help, for people of all backgrounds".
The letter from my constituent identified the author as a local priest who was very concerned by the attack on Christian values, especially on the pro-life cause. He said: "I acknowledge that you, and other politicians, have publicly supported pro-life, which for us is essential, and for which we are deeply grateful."
He identified and called out what he described as a "cold house" for his parishioners in the Republic and how being in the north was much preferable. He said: "I hear little mention that, for traditional Catholics, the south is now a cold house, which would make it for us preferable to be in the north."
He went on to recount to me some private stories about his life both here and abroad and emphasised that I should be encouraged by his support.
I was not only encouraged but delighted and honoured that a man of considerable standing in his own community put pen to paper to support me.
He went on to tell me: "I am not silent in my own way" - in other ways, he was a canvasser! Making the case in places I would find hard to reach.
Such support is welcome but frankly I'm not surprised by it. I am not a stranger in my constituency. I make it my business to be available to constituents of all classes and creeds and listen to concerns and try my best to represent them. Since 1996 North Antrim has returned me with increasing majorities at each election.
I've described the letter as a straw in the wind. It's not a tsunami but it is a trend that is growing. Only the DUP with its unashamed pro-life stance can genuinely be supported on this issue.
Some suggest that we are losing political support because of this issue. But I would be astute enough to pick up that trend if it was happening.
The fact is, I believe this is an area where the party is gaining support because it shows we are true to a principle that cuts across party lines.
A point Arlene Foster correctly identified when she spoke to the national media at the weekend. I'd go so far as to contend that none of our current supporters are surprised by our stance on this issue, so why would they be turned off? It is people who, like my constituent, have been let down by the SDLP and Sinn Fein on this matter who are looking for other parties to represent them and to speak up with conviction and sincerity.
I often hear about the need for respect and for rights. What greater right and what more vulnerable a subject than the unborn child?
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that I've received such pleasantly surprising mail. But it is one that comes at an important moment in a debate that cannot be ignored. Unlike social media with its anonymity and hurtful slander by wimps masquerading as generals, this is a real person speaking genuinely on a major issue and will carry more weight than the thousands of profane and sneering attacks on Twitter.
The local priest then told me about his own background and where he grew up. His description gave the lie to suggestions by Sinn Fein that no republican would change their vote.
My constituent disagrees.
He said that his family background was republican; in fact, he had family members who were "inspirers of republicanism". He himself had no relationship to the "values of violence" but his background was very much that of a republican. How out of touch is Mairtin O Muilleoir and other SF members who have chosen to speak before seeing the evidence.
"We represent a community, that is not represented. I am not silent!"
What an incredible insight I was privileged to receive and would be foolish to ignore.
Today, Parliament will debate for three hours the subject of abortion law in Northern Ireland. I will speak out on this matter.
Stella Creasy MP sees herself as some romanticised heroine fighting to equalise the laws across the UK. She's not. She's cynically using this matter to embarrass a weak and minority government and cares little that she stands on the unborn to make her case.
I do not need to recite here the laws that pertain in NI versus GB. I have yet to hear one local political party make the case that it wants the 1967 Abortion Act extended here.
Even Stella Creasy has backed away from making that case. She obviously got roasted by some supporters locally.
What is more, no one has any idea how the Dublin parliament will legislate. They will most certainly copy NI laws and regulations closer than move to anything resembling the 1967 Act.
The claims about criminalisation are just inflammatory and well she knows it. This is not a matter that Westminster needs to legislate on.
What is a crying shame is that the Assembly isn't meeting to legislate on it.