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Jeffrey Donaldson's daughter a leading campaigner for abortion reform

By Lisa Smyth

The daughter of staunch anti-abortion DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson is an ardent and active supporter of the pro-choice movement, it has emerged.

The Lagan Valley MP's eldest daughter has been a leading figure in pro-choice rallies and even travelled to Dublin recently with campaigner Ellie Evans, who was arrested, questioned by police and released without charge after carrying a 'F*** the DUP' placard at last year's gay pride march in Belfast.

However, Mr Donaldson - the DUP's chief whip - said he raised his children to develop their own opinions and he and his daughter respect one another's differing views on the highly sensitive subject.

"I'm passionately pro-life. My daughter has her own views," said Sir Jeffrey in a Sunday Life interview.

"The differences of opinion in my home are reflected, I'm sure, in many families across Northern Ireland."

The MP, who stressed his daughter is not a public figure and wishes to have her privacy respected, continued: "We have got respect for each other, that we hold different opinions, and my daughter knows I am very passionately pro-life and I don't think she's going to persuade me away from that point of view.

"I brought my children up to develop their own opinions on life and to respect the opinions of others, and that's the way I think it should be in any society.

"We talk regularly about this and other issues and I suppose it gives me an insight into the views and the thinking of people who take a different perspective from the one I do, and that has to be a healthy thing.

"I've met many young people who are pro-life and I have met many young people who want to see a change to the law.

"It's a very strong debate in Northern Ireland at the moment, it crosses the generations, it crosses the community and political divide."

Sir Jeffrey's daughter, who is in her late 20s, is a leading figure in a group that brands those who stand in the way of liberalising the 150-year-old abortion laws in Northern Ireland as "misogynists". Last October she took part in a noisy Rally For Choice march in Belfast calling for equal abortion rights in line with those in the rest of the UK.

The group held a banner bearing the slogan 'Every misogynist's worst nightmare', while she and Ms Evans carried signs in Dublin bearing the slogans 'Northern Ireland you're next' and 'The North is next'.

Her stance is the complete opposite to that of her father and has been revealed just days after Sir Jeffrey told a debate in the Commons on abortion rights in Northern Ireland that the law here had been shown to reduce the number of abortions in the jurisdiction. "For that reason I am very thoughtful about any change in the law in Northern Ireland," he said.

"I am proud of the fact that there are so many people alive in Northern Ireland today because we have a law that respects the rights of both women and of the unborn child and we will maintain that position," he commented.

However, perhaps in a nod to discussions he has had with his daughter, he added: "There are strong voices on both sides of this debate. This is a devolved issue - it should be left to the people of Northern Ireland to decide."

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