Abortion row ex-SF mayor insists many will defect to pro-life party
A former Sinn Fein mayor of Limavady - who quit the party after it relaxed its abortion policy - has predicted many more defections to a new all-Ireland pro-life republican party.
Former councillor Anne Brolly and her husband Francie, a former East Londonderry MLA, and the late Martin McGuinness' brother Declan have voiced their support for Meath TD Peadar Toibin's party.
Mr Toibin, who was suspended from Sinn Fein six months ago for speaking out against the party on abortion, said he has been inundated with messages of support, many of them from politicians on both sides of the border who share his strong pro-life views.
In June, Sinn Fein voted "decisively" to support the liberalisation of abortion law across the island of Ireland following a historic vote to legalise the procedure in the Republic.
Party members overwhelmingly backed a motion in Belfast calling for terminations to be provided through a GP-led service for a "limited gestational period". It came a month after a referendum in the Republic to overturn a constitutional provision which outlawed terminations in most cases.
Mrs Brolly said now is the time for politicians, particularly in the SDLP, to state their position on abortion clearly.
Mrs Brolly said: "There is nobody really speaking for the pro-life voice. The SDLP may have people in their party who are pro-life but they must nail their colours to the mast and make it clear where they stand on the this most important issue.
"I think there is growing unease amongst politicians on both sides of the border and within Sinn Fein for definite.
"I think once someone of Peadar's standing comes out it gives others confidence to do the same, and I believe there will be others who will resign because of how liberal the Republic's abortion laws will be.
"While things are at an embryonic stage, what we are talking about is an authentic 32-county republican movement, because republicanism is based on the individual right, the cornerstone of which is the right of conscience.
"Mary Lou McDonald has said the conscience will be public policy, she talks about collectivism. Stalin would very proud of her."
While this new party intends to align itself with republicanism, Mrs Brolly said it will not be a cold house for unionists.
She added: "I am a member of Cherish All the Children Equally which is a human rights group that takes its name from the Proclamation.
"But I am also involved with Both Lives Matter which has members from the DUP, the Catholic Church and people of both communities.
"I actually went with Both Lives Matter and spoke at Westminster - somewhere I never had any aspirations to be as a republican - but this is an issue that transcends politics."
Mr Toibin said he had received hundreds of messages of support since he resigned from Sinn Fein after 21 years. He said he was confident enough councillors would be interested in defecting to his new party to fight elections on both side of the border.