Belfast Telegraph

Republican pro-life campaigners target SF in Co Tyrone stronghold

Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald
Michelle O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald

By David O'Dornan

Sinn Fein has been targeted by pro-life campaigners outside Catholic churches in vice-president Michelle O'Neill's Co Tyrone heartland over the party's stance on abortion.

Flyers urging people to snub the party at the ballot box have been left on the cars of people attending Mass in strongholds like Dungannon and Pomeroy.

The leaflets state: "Withhold your vote from Sinn Fein in the forthcoming local elections and send them a clear message that we don't support their abortion policy.

"The Catholic population needs to increase its numbers in the north, not reduce them. We love our children, we don't kill them. Sinn Fein has had its day."

The leaflets are not claimed by any organisation and are headlined "Their Day Is Done!" - a reference to the republican slogan "Our Day Will Come" (Tiocfaidh Ar La), with a passage of Bible scripture at the end.

Some of it reads: "Just as we are about to become the majority in the six counties, along comes a new version of Sinn Fein telling us that we must have British abortion clinics opened in every town in Tyrone and across the north."

It urges people to remember a "photo of Michelle Doris O'Neill and Mary Lou McDonald at the front of Dublin Castle (the one time centre of British rule in Ireland) with a cardboard sign proclaiming that the north was 'next' in line" for abortion.

"Don't they realise that by opening abortion clinics in Omagh, Dungannon, Strabane, Cookstown, Coalisland, Carrickmore etc that they will reduce our numbers to the point where we will never recover?

"Once again, we will become a minority in our own country and we can forget about border polls and everything else."

Mrs O'Neill's family are from Clonoe in east Tyrone. Her father Brendan Doris was an IRA prisoner and Sinn Fein councillor. After his death in 2006 the late Martin McGuinness paid tribute to the Doris family as "a well-known and respected republican family (who) have played a significant role in the republican struggle for many years".

Last June Sinn Fein delegates voted to change the party's position on abortion at its conference in Belfast. They backed a leadership motion stating that women should have access to abortions within "a limited gestational period".

The decision came shortly after a referendum in the Republic removed a constitutional amendment that effectively outlawed abortion. On the day of the referendum result in Dublin, Mrs O'Neill and party president Ms McDonald held up a sign saying that "the north is next".

Previously, Sinn Fein had backed making terminations only available in circumstances such as fatal foetal abnormality, rape or sexual abuse.

Unlike other parts of the UK, the 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to Northern Ireland, meaning that it is the only region of the UK or Ireland where abortion is illegal unless there is a serious risk to a woman's life or health.

Former party politicians Francie and Anne Brolly resigned from over the issue. Sinn Fein TD Carol Nolan also quit over the policy change last year.

When Sinn Fein was approached for comment about the leafleting outside churches, it stated: "Sinn Fein support access to quality and safe healthcare for all women on the island of Ireland."

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