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Abortion: Divided opinions on streets of Newry over the views of Fr Quigley

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Bethan Carvill

Bethan Carvill

Val Morgan

Val Morgan

Bridget Wilson

Bridget Wilson

Bethan Carvill

A 95-year-old Catholic who stands "fully behind Arlene Foster" on the issue of abortion is among many Newry residents who yesterday backed Fr Damian Quigley's tough stance.

Bridget Wilson, who travelled to Dublin at the age of 91 to take part in a pro-life rally, questioned why the Church should ever bow to pressure by changing its core tenets as she expressed her support for the DUP's stance.

She was speaking after Fr Quigley told an engaged couple that their support for abortion could prevent them from receiving the sacrament of marriage.

"I am on the side of the unborn child, and if we ever get a government back in Stormont I will be fully behind Arlene Foster," she said.

Ms Wilson recalled walking two miles to Mass as a child, but now takes the bus and goes as often as possible.

She doesn't believe Fr Quigley is being unreasonable for expecting professing Catholics to uphold the teaching of the Church but said clarity is now needed.

"He was right to say it, but the Church should show some courage and stand by him," she said.

The mother-of-12, who has been a long time supporter of The Society For The Protection of Unborn Children, said watching people advocate for abortion has, at times, reduced her to tears.

"There are doctors and nurses campaigning for abortion - it's unbelievable that they would advocate doing that to an innocent child," she said.

The devout Catholic has helped support many women who have suffered as a result of their decision to have an abortion for decades.

"I'm against it in all circumstances," she said.

Another local pensioner, who did not wish to be named, admitted that she has struggled with the consequences of an abortion she had as a teenager 50 years ago.

"I'm 65 years of age and to this day I still try and figure out what that wee baby girl would be like," she said.

"I was only 15 at the time.

"I regret it so much and often think about her."

Despite carrying the emotional agony for all these years, the mother-of-three vehemently disagrees with the Catholic Church telling people what to do.

"I would never allow anyone I love to go through it, but it has to be a personal decision - not the Church's," she said.

Bethan Carvill (21) described Fr Quigley's position as "ridiculous" and accused the Catholic Church of trying to "blackmail" parishioners.

"I could get married and differ from the Church on any other issue - they don't have a say in that - so why should they care so much what I think about abortion," she said.

"They let so many other things go, but because this issue is in the public eye they seem desperate to have an input.

"If they were consistent then it wouldn't be as bad, but they can't just pull one issue out and enforce their teaching on it."

The supporter of abortion reform has no fear of repercussions for deviating from the official teaching of the Church.

"I honestly can't see this stance being enforced," she said.

Weekly mass-goer Val Morgan said Fr Quigley has simply articulated the policy of the Church, but called for Catholic leaders to come out and clarify their position.

While he is against any changes to abortion legislation in Northern Ireland, he does believe the Church may have crossed a red line.

"There's a wee bit of hypocrisy because they marry other couples who do things that are against the teaching of the Church," he said.

"There has been serious scandals within the worldwide Church and they weren't quick to take a stance - they need to be consistent."

His wife Susan, who believes abortion should be an option in a very limited set of circumstances, said the Church must spell out the implications for those who deviate from its teaching on the issue.

"I don't believe it's evil if the child is severely disabled or the mother's life is at risk - where does that leave me?" she asked.

Belfast Telegraph