Arlene Foster suggests some Sinn Féin supporters have told her they 'will be voting DUP' because of abortion stance
SINN Féin have said that it is "not credible to suggest" that views on abortion will make republicans vote DUP after Arlene Foster claimed some nationalists said they will be voting for her party because of its pro-life stance.
The DUP leader said she had "had emails from nationalists and republicans" saying that "they will be voting for the DUP because they believe we are the only party that supports the unborn".
Mrs Foster was speaking a week after the Republic voted to remove the Eighth Amendment from its constitution, which banned abortions.
The referendum result is set to usher in unrestricted access to terminations up to 12 weeks.
In the wake of the result last weekend, the DUP leader said the issue was "not one that should have people taking to the streets in celebration".
In stark contrast, Sinn Féin's Mary-Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill held up a sign at Dublin Castle stating that "the north is next".
In an interview on Sky News, journalist David Blevins put it to Mrs Foster that "some people find it hard to believe that you are suggesting some Sinn Féin voters are telling you they are going to vote DUP because of your position on abortion".
The DUP leader replied that "people vote for different reasons".
"I think it would be wrong not to acknowledge that there are those in my own constituency and right across Northern Ireland who feel so very strongly that they will cast their vote on that basis," she said.
Dismissing the claims however Sinn Féin Mid-Ulster MLA Linda Dillon said that abortion is "not a unionist versus nationalist issue" but one which "affects women from all communities".
Mrs Dillon said: "People do have very strongly held views on this issue, it is not credible to suggest that it will make republicans become unionists.
"Just as it would not be credible to suggest that unionists who support and trust women on this issue will become republicans. It is simply a wrong that needs to put right."
Abortion is currently only permitted in Northern Ireland if the mother's life is at risk or there is a permanent or serious risk to her mental or physical health.
Following the result in the Republic, campaigners in the north called on Westminster to intervene and change the law, a proposal dismissed by Mrs Foster.
"The way to have that debate...is in the devolved administration....marriage and abortion are devolved matters for the Northern Ireland Assembly."
Irish News columnist Brian Feeney, the author of 'Sinn Féin: A Hundred Turbulent Years,' said that Mrs Foster was offering no evidence to substantiate her claim and said she was treating Catholics as "one and the same" as nationalists and republicans.
"She can provide no evidence of numbers of nationalists and republicans. Politicians always say they have had a lot of communication. They don't quantify it and she didn't either," he said.
"The best evidence is from people in nationalist areas, and the numbers voting there for the DUP are less than the square root of minus one - an imaginary number."
Mr Feeney said there is "overwhelming support for the position Mary-Lou McDonald has taken" on the issue within the party, despite the resignations of some members.
"In past elections - such as Fermanagh/South Tyrone or West Tyrone - a number of Sinn Féin voters either didn't vote or voted SDLP, but it was minimal and they certainly didn't switch to the DUP, and there is nothing to suggest that."