Offences Against the Person Act 1861

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:09 pm on 5th June 2018.

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Photo of Jeffrey M. Donaldson Jeffrey M. Donaldson DUP Chief Whip, Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Business in the House of Commons) 3:09 pm, 5th June 2018

I welcome the opportunity to speak in this debate as a Member of Parliament, having represented my constituency for 21 years. Listening to debates in this place, I sometimes think that when people look at me they think I have a disconnect with the people I represent. Frankly, I would not have been returned to this House for my sixth term in Parliament if I was so disconnected from the people I represent. I am their voice in this House and I respect the voices of others, but the voices of the elected representatives from Northern Ireland should be heard in this debate.

This issue is one of great sensitivity, which deeply divides opinion both in this House and beyond, including in Northern Ireland. The subject of abortion incites strong and passionate responses for understandable reasons. I take part in this debate with that reality firmly in mind. My party has been from its very inception a pro-life party. We believe that law and policy in Northern Ireland should affirm and uphold the rights of both mothers and unborn children.

We have not been alone in Northern Ireland in upholding that stance. Politicians across the political divide and religious spectrum in Northern Ireland—as in other parts of the United Kingdom—have, and continue to hold, a similar view to the DUP. This includes both Unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland, and people of all faiths and none. The nationalist parliamentarian, the former hon. Member for Foyle, Mark Durkan, spoke eloquently in this House in defence of the pro-life position. Some of the best proponents of the pro-life position in Northern Ireland have come from the republican tradition, such as Francie Brolly, a former Member of the Legislative Assembly, and his wife Anne, a former mayor of Limavady. Both are Sinn Féin representatives who hold a pro-life position. The idea therefore that the only party in Northern Ireland that is pro-life and holds this view is the DUP is a nonsense that betrays an ignorance of the political situation in Northern Ireland and of the views of political parties that I encourage Members to acquaint themselves with more closely.