Mark H Durkan: Minister apologises ‘unreservedly’ for ‘crass’ remark

Pictured at the launch of the Foyle Womens Manifesto at the Holywell Trust on Wednesday afternoon last are Eamonn McCann People Before Profit, Catherine Cooke FWIN Co-ordinator, Mark H Durkan MLA Environment Minister, Councillor Hilary McClintock DUP, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor Elisha McCallion, and Milton Kerr QPM Equality Commissioner
Pictured at the launch of the Foyle Womens Manifesto at the Holywell Trust on Wednesday afternoon last are Eamonn McCann People Before Profit, Catherine Cooke FWIN Co-ordinator, Mark H Durkan MLA Environment Minister, Councillor Hilary McClintock DUP, the Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor Elisha McCallion, and Milton Kerr QPM Equality Commissioner

A Foyle MLA has apologised “unreservedly” following accusations of making a crass remark at a women’s event in Derry yesterday. He was attending the launch of a Women’s Manifesto.

Minister for the Environment, Mark H Durkan, was on the panel at the event at which one of the discussion points was the issue of abortion and fatal feotal abnormality.

In his opening remark on the issue, the SDLP politician said: “Now, to talk about the elephant in the room-or, the elephant in the womb.”

The issue has caused deeply heated political debate in Northern Ireland for some years and campaigners have long argued for new abortion legislation here.

Sinn Féin Foyle MLA Maeve McLaughlin called on Mr Durkan to withdraw the remarks saying: “How could an SDLP Minister be so crass and insensitive particularly when it occurred at at an event to launch a Manifesto highlighting women’s rights.

“I am calling on Mark H Durkan to withdraw this insulting and crass remark and to publicly apologise for his unacceptable comments.”

DUP Councillor on Derry City and Strabane District Council, Hilary McClintock said: “He thought he was being funny-but it wasn’t funny. It was totally out of order and very inappropriate. There was a moment of shocked silence and a few comments from other people.”

Speaking to the ‘Journal’, Mr Durkan said he “unreservedly apologised”.

“No offence was intended but I apologise because I obviously did cause offence. I am sorry that the remark overshadowed what was an excellent event covering poverty, child care, domestic violence. I knew the moment I said it I shouldn’t have said it.”