Northern Ireland news

Former MLA Francie Brolly resigns from Sinn Féin over abortion

Former Sinn Féin MLA Francie Brolly said he is "totally opposed to abortion in any circumstances". Picture by Hugh Russell
Connla Young

VETERAN Co Derry republican Francie Brolly has followed his wife by resigning from Sinn Féin over its stance on abortion.

The former East Derry MLA recently left the party along with the chairman of its Limavady cumann, Lee Devine, after informing a prominent local member.

Both men, who describe themselves as life-long republicans, took the decision after Sinn Féin voted to extend access to abortions last year.

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

However, at last year's Ard Fheis members voted to support access where there is a risk to the health of the woman.

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

Later this year voters in the Republic will decide whether to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the constitution, which would clear the way for a relaxation in strict abortion laws.

In 2016 Mr Brolly's wife Anne, a former Limavady councillor, revealed she had left the party over its then stance on abortion.

Both are prominent figures in Cherish All The Children Equally, a pressure group set up by republicans to oppose abortion on both sides of the border.

Mr Brolly said over the last two years he has written to all of Sinn Féin's elected representatives, including former president Gerry Adams, outlining his views.

“I am totally opposed to abortion in any circumstances,” he said.

“It's wrong, you just can't justify the killing of an innocent human being whether it's born or unborn.”

He added that “the only difference between me now and when I was in my mother's womb is I'm a lot older and I think better developed".

Mr Brolly also said he was disappointed that the motion on a conscience vote was defeated.

“Had they allowed that I think a lot of elected members in Sinn Féin would have been very relieved.”

The Dungiven man, who was interned between 1973 and 1975, was a Limavady councillor before serving as an MLA between 2003 and 2010, when he stepped down.

A retired teacher, he and his wife are also well known on the music scene across Ireland and their son Joe is a former Derry All-Ireland winner and a GAA pundit with RTE.

Mr Brolly said Sinn Féin is a party "that's difficult to get a voice in", with ordinary members not “properly included” in making serious decisions.

“There's an element of control in how Sinn Féin organises itself - whatever you believe, in Sinn Féin you do what you are told."

However, the veteran republican said he is “not campaigning for people to leave".

“It's a matter of conscience for all those people. I have my own conscientious objection to abortion,” he said.

“The point I would make is if people have not got freedom of conscience you have no freedom and if there's no freedom there's no republic.

“What kind of republic could we expect to have under Sinn Féin where they would control the conscience of the people?”

Meanwhile, Mr Devine said his decision to leave the party had been “very difficult".

“I agree with every single one of their policies except this one," he said.

“I am very much still a republican.”

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