Plan to protect mothers who breastfeed in public is ‘mere gimmick’: DUP MP

The health minister has announced plans to protect mothers who breastfeed in public
The health minister has announced plans to protect mothers who breastfeed in public

Plans to bring forward legislation to protect mothers who breastfeed their children in public have been branded “a mere gimmick” by a DUP MP.

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill today announced her intention to ensure breast and bottle-feeding mothers are given “equal access to feed their children with confidence and without interruption in public”.

The Sinn Fein MLA added: “ The details of this legislation will be consulted upon as soon practicable and I hope to introduce this to the Assembly at the earliest possible date.”

But East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson, who was criticised last year for remarks he made about breastfeeding, described the proposal as a “non-issue”.

Back in July 2016, Mr Wilson claimed it would amount to exhibitionism if women MPs were allowed to breastfeed in the House of Commons.

Speaking to the News Letter today, he branded Mrs O’Neill’s proposal as “a mere gimmick”.

He added: “It is a non-issue. I have never heard of someone saying they were asked to stop breastfeeding in a public place. In the end it all comes down to common sense.

“Also, the minister needs to clarify if there will be any limitations on where breastfeeding can take place, such as church buildings. Where do you draw the line and what criteria is used to determine that?”

However, Alliance health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw welcomed the proposal.

She also called Mr Wilson’s comments “disappointing” and “out of date”.

The south Belfast MLA added: “It appears he has a fixation with breastfeeding, one he needs to get over so he can get more in tune with modern society and women’s natural rights.”

Mary Caddell, regional officer of the Royal College of Midwives said: “Women should not feel excluded, condemned or judged for what is an essential act, and one which has health benefits for both the mother and baby.

“It is sad that we need legislation for this, but if it helps raise awareness of the issue it can only be a good thing.”