Protestants to attend republican anti-abortion meeting
AN anti-abortion meeting organised by a new republican group has drawn supporters from Protestant backgrounds who say they plan to attend the gathering in Co Derry tonight.
Cherish All The Children Equally was launched earlier this year by republicans opposed to abortion and includes current and former members of Sinn Féin.
Last month The Irish News revealed how former Sinn Féin Mayor of Limavady Anne Brolly left the party after members voted to support abortion in limited cases.
Her husband, former Eeast Derry assembly member Francie Brolly, remains a member of Sinn Féin.
The husband and wife team are both leading members of the new group which was established to fight the relaxation of abortion laws in the north and repeal of the Eight Amendment of the Republic’s constitution which protects the right to life of the unborn.
Britain’s 1967 Abortion Act does not extend to the north but abortions are permitted when a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a risk to her long-term mental and physical health.
It emerged last night that several people from Protestant backgrounds, who describe themselves as "Irish Christians", intend to attend the meeting.
Dungannon based Ernie Leonard, who was brought up in the Anglican tradition, said those from a non Catholic tradition will feel comfortable attending the meeting.
“It is important that what we stand for as a people and nation is firmly based in our Irish heritage,” he said.
“Our Irish heritage is from Patrick and that is crucial to me.”
Mr Leonard said he believes life begins at the moment of conception and said his opposition to abortion is closely linked with his Irish identity.
“We try to combine the gospel that has been handed down to us and our Christian and Irish heritage,” he said.
“As a result of the Christian heritage given to us as a nation, pro life is part and parcel of that.”
He also believes Sinn Féin has questions to answer.
“The challenge to Sinn Féin is this, what place is there for someone like me, a non-Catholic determined Irish Christian, who is strongly pro life.”
Pol Ó hAgáin, who also considers himself as an Irish Christian, said he is a former Sinn Féin voter but can no longer “co-exist” with the party.
“The reality of this situation is we are facing a situation where hundreds and thousands of our children could be killed,” he said.
“It’s something we have to stand up for and this is a real fight of a nation - to save the innocent.”
Catherine Sewell from St. Joseph's Pro-Life Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians said her organisation will also attend tonight’s meeting at the GAA centre of excellence at Owenbeg, outside Dungiven.
Sinn Féin did not respond to requests for a comment. However, a spokesman previously said: "The Sinn Féin position on abortion has been debated and agreed over a long period of time at Ard Fheiseanna."