Sinn Féin drops opposition to abortion at Derry congress

Party votes to support terminations in limited cases, such as pregnant women with fatal foetal abnormalities, in both Irish Republic and Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin has dropped its historic opposition to abortion at its annual congress held in Derry.

The party voted this weekend to support terminations in limited cases, such as pregnant women with fatal foetal abnormalities. This involves women whose babies will be born dead and who have to either go full term in Ireland or seek abortions across the Irish sea in Britain.

The policy switch will apply to both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

Earlier on Saturday, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Féin president, said he was backing motions from delegates to support abortion in certain circumstances.

“I have listened very intently to testimony from parents dealing with fatal foetal abnormalities. We have to be very compassionate about this.

“Obviously, there are some women who want to continue with their pregnancy to full term and we need to support them, but there are others who feel they are not able to do that and we need to deal with both groups with the absolute maximum of support,” Adams said.

The party, which the Adams-led leadership in the past vetoed any major debate or policy change on abortion, also voted for the repeal of the 8th Amendment to the Irish constitution. The 8th Amendment, passed by a referendum back in 1983, gives the foetus and embryo even at conception full constitutional rights in Ireland.

However, Sinn Féin has not backed a pro-choice abortion stance advocated by hard left parties in the Irish parliament.

During the party’s Ard Fheis (annual conference), Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, tried to counter accusations from political rivals that while Sinn Féin opposed austerity cuts in the Irish Republic it was implementing the same austerity policies in the power sharing executive in Belfast.

McGuinness claimed that the Stormont House Agreement gained extra cash from the UK Treasury to cushion Northern Ireland against the effect of cuts to the region’s public sector.

“We need to be very clear about the alternative if the institutions had collapsed – instead of our locally elected and accountable assembly we would have had rule by British Tories and the imposition of Thatcherite policies that no one here voted for or wants,” he told party delegates.


Henry McDonald Ireland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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