Belfast pro-life group is 'disappointed' at rival's reaction to campaign award
A Belfast-based pro-life group that won a UK-wide award for its campaigning work has claimed the honour was soured after an abortion services provider boycotted last night's ceremony in protest at the move.
Both Lives Matter won the Northern Ireland Public Affairs Campaign of the Year, which was presented at a ceremony hosted by Michael Crick in London last night for their '100,000' billboard campaign.
A spokeswoman for Both Lives Matter explained they had sought to reframe the abortion debate in Northern Ireland by highlighting the 100,000 people alive today because of the province's current laws on abortion.
However, the award has been met with a barrage of criticism on social media.
And the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) wrote to the event's judges in protest at the decision and boycotted the ceremony.
BPAS had been shortlisted for its campaign to reduce the inflated price of emergency contraception, but told the judges in an open letter published on its website that it "no longer wants recognition from an organisation which is also happy to celebrate the systematic suppression of the rights of women and girls to basic healthcare". It added: "Please accept this letter as notice of the withdrawal of our entry."
The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) wrote a letter back to BPAS in response pointing out that the work the awards celebrate "cover numerous viewpoints on often controversial issues".
"The judges consider only the ingenuity and effectiveness of the campaigning work itself'," the group wrote.
"For that reason, it is completely incorrect to claim that we are endorsing 'the denial of healthcare and human rights'."
Dawn McAvoy, co-founder of Both Lives Matter, expressed disappointment at the letter from BPAS.
"Both Lives Matter has always been about three things - reframing the abortion debate in Northern Ireland and beyond; advocating for better care and support in pregnancy crisis; and creating a culture which values every women and unborn child," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
"We are stunned and delighted to have won best campaign in our first year.
"We are surprised and disappointed by the reaction of BPAS and others who have essentially put pressure on the organisers to have us excluded from the awards.
"By withdrawing in protest, they have attempted to make the awards about them rather than a celebration of the great work by all the nominees."
Ms McAvoy revealed that in response to the BPAS letter, her organisation has written to the organisers to thank them for how they have handled the matter.
"All the nominees deserve congratulations on their nominations," she said.