A campaign urging Northern Ireland’s politicians to get back together for talks to restore devolution has itself become embroiled in acrimony ahead of protests planned for Tuesday.
The row has emerged after an LGBT rights campaigner and an abortion campaigner were pulled from a rally in Belfast.
A series of protests are planned at towns and cities across Northern Ireland for August 28, to mark the 589 days since the collapse of powersharing at Stormont, under the banner #WeDeserveBetter.
However, some involved in the main rally in Belfast have withdrawn their support after having invited an LGBT rights campaigner and an abortion campaigner to participate, only to be asked to disinvite the pair.
Elaine Crory, an Alliance for Choice activist, and John O’Doherty, director of LGBT charity the Rainbow Project, had been asked by the group ‘Progressive Politics NI’ to speak at the event.
But, Progressive Politics NI have now withdrawn their support after they were asked to disinvite the two speakers.
“Unfortunately when we announced these speakers it became clear that some were upset as they felt this wasn’t what the #WeDeserveBetter campaign was about,” the group said in a statement.
“They felt these are ‘agendas’ and that this campaign wasn’t about them.
“The #WeDeserveBetter organisers asked us to rethink these speakers as they wanted their message to be solely about getting the parties back to talk.”
The statement continued: “We understand wanting to attract as many people as possible from all corners of Northern Ireland, but we feel the issues of LGBT rights and bodily autonomy are extremely important issues that need addressed and not ‘agendas’.”
Alliance for Choice also hit out at the decision, writing on social media website Twitter: “We don’t see abortion as a divisive issue. We wish Elaine Crory was still going to be addressing this and #WeDeserveBetter than the status quo.”
Dylan Quinn, a father-of-four who runs a dance studio in Co Fermanagh, started the campaign with an online video which went viral.
He said: “I appreciate the complexity of the issues we have and that there things that need to be resolved, but nothing at the moment is being done. This is about getting the politicians around the table to resolve these issues that people have.”