A member of the DUP has criticised British politician Stella Creasy after she publicly condemned Arlene Foster’s stance on abortion at a global women’s caucus.
Ms Creasy, of the Labour and Co-operative Party, said in Dublin: “Right now there is only one woman who gets to make a choice about abortion rights for all women in Northern Ireland and she’s called Arlene Foster.”
The audience of hundreds of delegates from more than 40 countries across the globe audibly gasped after Ms Creasy described the criminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
“In Northern Ireland, if you are raped, you can face a longer prison sentence than the person who attacked you if you choose to terminate that pregnancy.
“The UK Supreme Court said this breaches the human rights of women, but my Government refuses to step in to allow women in Northern Ireland to have modern abortion laws.
“And because my Prime Minister needs to be in power by using the votes from this person, they don’t want to move forward on abortion legislation, but I don’t think its right that that one woman should make that choice.
“Last year we forced the UK Parliament to allow women from Northern Ireland to travel to the UK for an abortion and pay for it.
“Twenty-eight women a day do that, but that isn’t right. I never fought for women to be made to travel at a time they should be with partners or family or friends.
“So as much as we’ve made some progress, we have a long way to go in Northern Ireland, and it’s the fundamental principle … women will never be as equal as men in the choices they can make.”
Ms Creasy was taking part in a panel discussion on “Our vision for women in 2018”, chaired by Martina Devlin at the International Congress of Parliamentary Women’s Caucuses in Dublin Castle.
Paula Bradley, a DUP representative for Belfast North since 2011, said Ms Creasy’s criticisms were not in the spirit of the day.
“It’s not embarrassing, it slightly annoyed me, we’re here as part of a women’s caucus.
“It angered me slightly, the one person today who had the back completely ripped out of her was Arlene Foster and not anyone else. That’s bad for this type of event.
“Very much women’s caucuses are here to support women.”
Ms Creasy, who also criticised French right-wing leader Marine Le Pen and Australian Liberal Party politician Julie Bishop, said she had asked Ms Bradley for a meeting to discuss abortion reform, and the offer was rejected.
“Caucuses are not about denying women accountability for their actions. I’m sorry that the DUP representative here today didn’t take up the offer to meet with me.
“It may well be a difficult conversation but it is one I want to have and it has been rebuffed, which tells me that women’s rights are not on the agenda.”
Ms Creasy confirmed to the Press Association that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar assured her he would support her in her campaign for abortion rights.
- Press Association