Francie Molloy: I won't quit Sinn Féin over abortion

Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy opposed a Sinn Féin ard fheis motion which supported extending access to abortions.
Mid Ulster MP Francie Molloy opposed a Sinn Féin ard fheis motion which supported extending access to abortions.

Veteran Tyrone republican Francie Molly has said he does not plan to resign from Sinn Féin despite the party’s support for extending access to abortions.

During last weekend’s ard fheis in Dublin the Mid Ulster MP spoke passionately against a motion which supports allowing greater access to terminations.

Mr Molloy is the most senior figure in the north to speak out about the abortion issue, saying the adoption of the motion was akin to “abortion on demand”.

Previously the party had supported abortion in limited cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

However, Sinn Féin members have now voted to support access to abortions where there is a danger to the health of a woman.

Last year former Limavady councillor Anne Brolly revealed she had resigned from the party over its previous stance on the issue.

Mr Molloy last night ruled out taking a similar course of action.

“I don’t like it and agree with it and that’s the position we have made and everybody has to live with that,” he said.

Mr Molloy, who replaced Martin McGuinness as MP for Mid Ulster in 2013, said “I put my position and reflected what I saw as Mid Ulster grass roots,” he said.

“The vote has been taken and decision made and the party have to live with them and explain them fully.

“It’s important to keep in touch with the grass roots and realise these decisions can be taken in isolation.

“It’s very easy to pass a motion in the heat of an ard fheis, it’s different when you are on doorsteps and people don’t see the logic for it.”

The party also rejected a motion that would have allowed a “conscience vote” on the issue.

Mr Molloy said the ard fheis was pitched as both “progressive and historical”.

“But I think it was hysterical, particularly by people gloating on the position (taken on abortion).

“I saw a danger in that I did not like,” he said.

The motion was supported by the party’s northern leader Michelle O’Neill.

Ms O’Neill previously worked with Mr Molly as an assistant when he served as an MLA in the Mid Ulster constituency.

Although the pair serve in the same constituency and largely rely on a similar vote pool they have different views on how their electorate will react to their party’s new position.

In an interview with the Irish News last week Ms O’Neill said the party “isn’t in favour of abortion” and insisted that when explained on the doorsteps to constituents why a new policy was being adopted, they would understand.

Mr Molloy believes Sinn Féin’s new position may be a hard sell.

“It does not reflect the view of the people on the ground,” he said.

“If you move beyond what the people of Mid Ulster say to me, that’s what the danger is in it."

He added that he has been questioned about abortion in the past by the public.

“I would know from previous elections people would feel strongly about it, people felt very strongly about our position - at that time I thought it was a reasonable, good position and compromise.”

The republican said there are those in the party who would want it to adopt an even stronger position.

“I believe there are some that want to push it on further,” he said.