Northern Ireland news

Attacks on anti-abortion protesters in Coleraine treated as hate crimes

An anti-abortion protester was attacked outside a health centre in Coleraine on Wednesday

ATTACKS on anti-abortion protesters outside a health centre in Coleraine are being treated as hate crimes.

Red paint was thrown over a man outside the centre on Castlerock Road in the Co Derry town on Wednesday at around 11.35am.

Police said the man needed hospital treatment.

Abolish Abortion NI claimed paint had been sprayed directly into the man's face and had gone into his eyes.

However, the group said he was treated at the scene and did not require treatment in hospital.

The previous week, on June 9, a male protester was confronted by another man who verbally abused him and damaged his anti-abortion poster.

A police spokeswoman said: "Both reports are being treated as hate crimes by police and enquiries are ongoing".

A spokesman for Abolish Abortion NI said attacks on protesters are becoming more frequent.

He insisted protesters were not trying to intimidate people.

"The reality is that Christians are outside these clinics to offer physical, emotional and financial support to women who would avail of it; they are there to show love and offer help; they are there to follow Christ's command to 'love your neighbour'," he said.

Writing to the group on Facebook, Justice Minister Naomi Long said: "No attack on any person is ever justified".

She said she disagreed with the group's stance on abortion but defended its right to protest "free of threat, intimidation or violence".

"If people wish to avail of your services or counselling, you are free to advertise and they are free to come to you," she said.

"The street or the pathway to a clinic is not a suitable place to seek to engage any person in counselling on something as sensitive and personal as a pregnancy.

"The overwhelming majority of women attending clinics do not view what you do as helpful or welcome and you should respect their views."

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