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Abortion: London will not risk law change in Northern Ireland, claims DUP's Jim Wells

By Victoria Leonard

Former DUP Health Minister Jim Wells has said the Prime Minister "is not going to endanger" its Westminster arrangement with his party by "trying to push through abortion" here.

The South Down MLA was speaking outside the Lisburn DUP offices of Edwin Poots MLA, Jeffrey Donaldson MP and Paul Givan MLA as pro-choice activists from Rosa NI protested against his party's stance on the issue.

He described abortion in Northern Ireland as "absolutely crucial" to the confidence and supply deal in the Commons, and said there were "other big issues" for Theresa May.

"For instance, there's been 54 votes on Brexit in our Parliament - 49 of them have been won by 10 or fewer votes," he said.

"That's how much a knife-edge situation is in the Commons at the moment, and I don't think she is going to put that in any danger by trying to push through abortion." Mr Wells admitted that since he isn't an MP he doesn't "have any role in those discussions" at Westminster.

"I'm totally opposed to any change in the legislation in Northern Ireland," he continued.

"The Assembly last dealt with this issue on February 10, 2016, and made a very, very clear decision - we do not want any change in the law in Northern Ireland.

"The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland are pro-life, they believe in the protection of the rights of the unborn child, and we've saved the lives of 102,000 people in Northern Ireland by not having abortion on demand.

"No doubt if the Assembly was back it would make exactly the same decision."

Mr Wells said he didn't intend to speak to protesters as he didn't want to have "an unholy shambles here of people attacking each other".

He said: "It's a dignified protest.

"They have every right to have a protest." Exiting the office before the protesters arrived, Lagan Valley MLA Mr Poots also declined to wait to speak with the pro-choice group, saying he had "constituency issues to attend to".

"They haven't asked to speak to me, so I haven't anything to say to them," he said.

"These are all issues which will be dealt with at a Westminster level.

"Eight million babies have lost their lives in the United Kingdom because of the laws that exist. Why would anybody want to see children having their lives taken away in the way that has happened across the UK?

"The south of Ireland is a different country and what they choose to do is for that country.

"I support the right to protest so I'm quite happy for people to protest."

After picketing at the DUP offices, the demonstrators staged a similar protest at Sinn Fein's offices in Cookstown.

The day of protest ended with a rally in Londonderry.

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