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DUP stance could win votes from republicans, says Brolly


Abortion opposition: Anne Brolly

Abortion opposition: Anne Brolly

Abortion opposition: Anne Brolly

A former Sinn Fein mayor has said some republicans and nationalists may vote DUP in future because of the party's staunch anti-abortion policy.

Veteran republican Anne Brolly said she knew nationalist pro-life activists who had done so in the past and would again.

She said consideration may be given to forming a strongly anti-abortion nationalist or republican party.

"At the moment we don't have a party to vote for and I think our voice needs to be heard," she said.

Mrs Brolly was speaking after DUP leader Arlene Foster said anti-abortion Sinn Fein voters had contacted her and pledged their vote to the DUP following the Republic's landslide referendum decision to liberalise its abortion law.

A former Limavady mayor, Mrs Brolly resigned from Sinn Fein two years ago in protest at its increasingly liberal stance on abortion. Her husband Francie, a former MLA, left the party this year for the same reasons.

Mrs Brolly said Mrs Foster was right when she said the abortion issue may cause some republicans and nationalists to tactically vote DUP.

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"I don't know if I could personally bring myself to vote DUP, but I know that some people from the nationalist and republican tradition did so in last June's Westminster election because they believed that the right to life trumped everything else and I believe they will vote DUP next time too," she said.

"You are born into your political persuasion. I grew up in Coalisland and became involved with republicanism in the same way that some people who grew up on the Shankill became involved with loyalism.

"It was an accident of birth. But when you are older, you make choices. The right to life is inalienable. It is not granted by church or state. If you don't have the right to be born, then you have nothing. That is why people prioritise it.

"The question is whether it is right to kill an unborn child in the womb. The fundamental right to life trumps all others."

When asked if she was guilty of double standards on the right to life given the IRA's past campaign of violence, Mrs Brolly said: "I joined Sinn Fein in 2001 after the peace process."

She also said there was a difference between "people defending themselves and wilfully targeting the most vulnerable in society, the unborn".

Mrs Brolly, who campaigned in Co Donegal for the 'No' side in last month's referendum, said Sinn Fein was completely wrong not to allow its representatives a conscience vote on the issue and to instead bind them to party policy.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May has held discussions on Northern Ireland's strict abortion laws with Tory MPs pressing for change.

With the House of Commons set to hold an emergency debate on the issue, Mrs May faces pressure from within Conservative ranks to take action.

Women and Equalities Minister Penny Mordaunt attended the briefing in Downing Street yesterday. Former Home Secretary Amber Rudd was also present, along with ex-Education Secretary Justine Greening and Maria Miller, chairwoman of the Commons Women and Equalities Committee.

Mrs May has so far resisted calls for Westminster to legislate to relax abortion laws here and insisted it is a devolved matter for Stormont to consider.

Labour has said it is "looking at legislative options" at Westminster which could force change in Northern Ireland.

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