I see that the DUP and the SDLP have decided to put pressure on Sinn Fein by introducing an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill relating to Abortion.
The amendment which is sponsored by Alban McGuinness of the SDLP and Paul
Givan of the DUP would stop Abortions being carried out by private clinics and
would only allow them in NHS facilities in exceptional circumstances.
This bill has attracted the support of the Catholic Church as well as well
known and respected GAA manager Mickey Harte.
On the face of it Sinn Fein should not be opposed to this amendment as it is
wholly consistent with their current position as mandated by previous Ard Fheiseanna.
For anyone who still isn't clear about Sinn Fein's position on Abortion it
is thus, Sinn Fein opposes the introduction of the British 1967 Abortion Act.
Martin McGuinness articulated the position well
"We believe that in circumstances where there is a risk to a woman's
life, a risk to a woman's mental health and the grave dangers associated with
that, in the final analysis a woman has to make her own decision."
So what can we garner from this position. Sinn Fein is opposed to abortion
on demand and even where there is a risk to a woman’s life or her mental health
there is no position taken by the party only that the final decision must rest
with the woman.
You may have asked if this is the case why would Sinn Fein be opposed to the
amendment if it is in line with current party policy.
Sinn Fein is a broad church in many ways; it is a mixture of hardcore
Socialists, hardcore Conservative Catholic Republicans and every mixture in
On most issues there isn't a conflict but with certain elements of the party
adopting more and more liberal stances in the South it may start to become an
issue and vague policy positions will no longer cut it.
That was exemplified by the recent push by Sinn Fein in the Dail to
legislate for the X Case and the refusal of Sinn Fein TD Peadar Toibin to
support such an approach.
I can understand to some extent the reason why Sinn Fein are adopting a more
liberal approach in the 26 counties, they are aggressively attacking Labours
flank and believe this to be the best course but caution should be observed.
Across large sections of rural Ireland and indeed amongst a great many of
their supporters and members in the North there is no appetite for this new
found Liberal agenda. I also find it dishonest to try and keep the liberal and
conservative social wings happy with vague sounding policy papers and
In the long run you can't appease both masters and political opponents will
always try and attack you when you are vulnerable.