Well-known Irish republican Anne Brolly, a former Sinn Féin mayor in Limavady, Co. Derry, warned of a potential nationalist split over the matter of abortion which could leave some pro-life voters turning to the DUP.
Brolly argues that the staunch anti-abortion policy of the DUP has swayed more conservative nationalists in the past and would certainly do so in greater numbers if Sinn Féin defines itself as a pro-choice alternative. With Sinn Féin politicians such as VP Michelle O’Neill and party president Mary Lou McDonald coming forth and openly advocating that the north is next to allow abortion, this puts their constituents in a divisive situation.
Brolly came out and said this following the leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, stating that she has been in contact with anti-abortion nationalists who no longer have a party to represent their Christian values. The DUP, despite being intensely loyalist, are cultural traditionalists and will ultimately seek to expand their coalition if Sinn Féin cannot address this large portion of their voting bloc.
In response to the increasing liberalization of Sinn Féin on this issue, Brolly left the party two years ago as an act of protest according to the Belfast Telegraph.
“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,” as Brolly stated.
She went on to say that her involvement in republicanism was merely something she was born into, but the matter of one’s right to life is something that cannot be taken away.
LIVE: DUP MP David Simpson asking where rights of unborn child come into abortion law liberalisationhttps://t.co/orh5yCLJeN— Belfast Telegraph (@BelTel) June 5, 2018
“If you don’t have the right to be born, then you have nothing. That is why people prioritize it,” as Brolly emphasized.
She was not formally a member of Sinn Féin until 2001 following the peace process was in effect and the IRA had ceased its paramilitary activities. However, Brolly felt that there is a significant distinction between the actions of the IRA, which were defensive in her view, and the right to life for the most vulnerable in society; the unborn.
As of now, the issue is one that cannot be deliberated upon in Stormont as the devolved government is under direct control from London in response to the DUP and Sinn Féin being unable to share power. The fear is that Westminster will use its power and overturn the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which is the law in the north that has banned abortion unless the mother’s life was at serious risk.
Prime Minister Theresa May has held discussions with fellow Conservative party members who have argued for a change to this 150-year-old law, but she has insisted that this should be something for Stormont to consider and deliberate upon independent of Westminster.
Do you think that this issue could seriously harm the power dynamic in Northern Ireland?