Paisley issues warning over abortion in Northern Ireland

DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley
DUP North Antrim MP Ian Paisley

A DUP MP has issued a warning over abortion in Northern Ireland, saying the rights of an unborn child "trump any political agreement" the party has with the Government.

Ian Paisley made the comments in response to claims of a "backroom deal" between the DUP and the Government made by the SNP's Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) during a debate on EU legislation.

The party has agreed to prop up the Tory minority Government on key votes - however, Mr Paisley made clear that it would not be swayed on social issues such as abortion, which the DUP opposes.

It comes after ministers announced funding for women in Northern Ireland to have abortions on the NHS in England in order to head off a rebellion on the Queen's Speech.

Mr Paisley, speaking as MPs debated the European Union (Approvals) Bill, said: "I'm going to make it absolutely clear that the rights of the unborn child, in my view and in the views of people in my party and on this bench, trump any political agreement that had been put in place.

"We're making that absolutely and abundantly clear, and if anyone thinks that we would take a view where we would trade that issue of life and the sanctity of life on a political deal, they don't understand me and they don't understand my party and they need to be aware of that."

Mr Hendry, intervening, said he had been referring to LGBT rights in Northern Ireland rather than abortion, but Mr Paisley stood by his comments.

Mr Paisley went on: "I believe that my party will take a stand on that issue, irrespective of the political agreements that are reached.

"I say that as a warning to others who wish to raise (this issue) in the House in the weeks and months and hopefully in the years ahead."

Abortion is illegal in Northern Ireland except where the physical or mental wellbeing of the mother is at risk.