Belfast Telegraph

Taken star Liam Neeson quits fight club over abortion row

By Chris Woodhouse

Liam Neeson has dramatically stood down as president of his childhood boxing club in Northern Ireland in what is understood to be a disagreement over his support for legalising abortion.

The Hollywood megastar was the long-time head of his treasured All Saints Amateur Boxing Club in his home town of Ballymena, where he trained from the age of nine.

It’s understood the Taken actor left his role after he narrated a film made by Amnesty International calling for the Irish government to repeal the eighth amendment of the constitution.

The law states that abortion is a criminal offence except in circumstances where the mother’s life is in danger.

It’s believed that locals were upset at the actor’s very public stance on the controversial and divisive issue as the club is associated with the local Catholic church.

A member of All Saints confirmed to Sunday Life that Mr Neeson had stood down as president and said they had no comment to make on Mr Neeson’s personal views.

Sunday Life contacted Mr Neeson’s agent but they did not respond to our request for comment.

High profile anti-abortion campaigner, Ballymena woman Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life told Sunday Life that the pro-life movement in Ireland is very disappointed that Liam Neeson has supported the call to repeal the eighth amendment.

But Ms Smyth added: “I admire Liam Neeson personally, he’s fantastic actor.”

Ms Smyth said the legalisation of abortion would advance a very dangerous culture of death that people throughout Ireland have been standing in opposition to.

The film Mr Neeson took part in was written by Father Ted creator Graham Linehan who is one of the Repeal the Eighth campaign’s biggest supporters.

Mr Linehan - who also wrote the IT Crowd and Black Books hit sitcoms - became involved in the movement after revealing that his wife Helen terminated a pregnancy when doctors advised the couple that the child would not live longer than an hour after birth.

In the video, released in October last year, Mr Neeson says: “A ghost haunts Ireland. A cruel ghost of the last century, still bound to the land.

“It blindly brings suffering, even death, to the women whose lives it touches.

“Feared by politicians, this is a ghost of paper and ink.

“A spirit that lives in the constitution written for a different time.

“It’s time to lay this ghost to rest.

“Repeal the eighth.”

The 61-year-old joined the boxing club at the age of nine and has credited it with giving him the determination to handle rejection during his decades long acting career.

He previously told the BBC: “It taught me something about having a sense of discipline, no matter what your chosen profession is going to be, kind of never saying die, always getting up and going.

“If I get rejected for a part, I pick myself up and say, OK, not today, maybe tomorrow I’ll get this other part or something.

“I know I got that determination from those early days boxing.”

Neeson began boxing lessons at the All Saints Amateur Boxing Club   while a primary school pupil and went on to become an Ulster amateur senior boxing champion.

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