An influential pro-life group is encouraging nationalists to vote tactically and back DUP leader Arlene Foster in her home constituency of Fermanagh and South Tyrone.
The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) has launched a campaign to encourage tactical voting on the abortion issue in the forthcoming Assembly elections and, as such, have identified three key battlegrounds – West Belfast, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and South Antrim.
In Fermanagh and South Tyrone, SPUC’s NI development officer Liam Gibson said nationalist voters should throw their weight behind “the most outspoken and reliable” political party when it comes to pro-life issues.
Mr Gibson told the News Letter: “That has been a very marginal constituency for a very long time. We’ve had an interest there going back to the election of Tom Elliott.
“A lot of people in Fermanagh and South Tyrone have, on the nationalist and republican side of the community, been very discontented with Sinn Fein in particular who have abandoned the more traditional pro-life views.
“They have been looking for some way of directing their discontent and they’ve found that they have, perhaps, more in common with those politicians who have been on the unionist and loyalist side.
“The fact that Arlene Foster is based in Fermanagh and South Tyrone makes it more interesting again. She and the DUP’s position on the liberalisation of the law is crucial.
“While we don’t take anything for granted we know that the DUP have been the most outspoken and reliable politicians when it comes to this issue.
“People need to tell their politicians yes, we support the position that you’ve adopted.
“We have seen the pro-life vote make a difference before in Fermanagh and South Tyrone with the election of Tom Elliott, where we believe it at least played a part.”
Another key constituency for pro-life tactical voting, Mr Gibson said, was in South Antrim, where former Alliance leader David Ford, who introduced a Private Member’s Bill seeking to legalise abortion in cases of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’, is standing for re-election.
Responding, the former Alliance Party leader said: “Abortion is a conscience issue for Alliance.
“This call by SPUC appears to be personally targeting me rather than assessing the views and approaching them in a fair manner, particularly given there are a number of candidates in South Antrim who would agree with me that we need reform of abortion law in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities, and some who would go even further.”
He added: “It is clear the desire for such reform still receives widespread public support. With it, we can get the legislative change needed to help women who decide to seek a termination in these difficult circumstances.”