Former East Derry Sinn Fein MLA, Francie Brolly, will devote his time to campaigning against abortion, after quitting the party this week on the issue.
Mr. Brolly is now a prominent member of ‘Cherish All The Children Equally,’ an anti-abortion pressure group, which opposes the repeal of the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, on which a referendum is being held later this year.
He said that it had not been an easy decision to leave, but one which his conscience had demanded.
“I agree with sinn Fein on every issue except this one,” he said.
“But it is not so much the party that I am going to miss, but the friends I have made all over the country.”
Mr. Brolly will campaign against the law change in the west of Ireland and said that changes to the abortion law in the 26 counties won’t just have an impact there, but on the other sixcounties as well.
“I am going to be working all over the country, but mainly in the West, in Sligo, Donegal, wherever we are needed,” he maintained.
“If the change were to be made it would be so much easier for women in the north if, say, there was a clinic in Letterkenny, to use a service.”
Mr. Brolly said it was a mistake for Sinn Fein to deny members a vote of conscience on this issue.
At last year’s Ard Fheis party members voted to support access in the instance where there was a risk to the health of the woman.
And the party also rejected a motion that would have allowed representatives a “conscience vote” on the issue.
“I think that will come back to haunt the party,” Mr. Brolly claimed.
“Other political parties allow free votes on all manner of issues.
“To not have the right to vote on such a serious issue as this made it impossible for me to remain within the party.
“If you don’t follow your own conscience on matters like these, then you don’t have the platform to discuss these serious moral issues.”
Mr. Brolly, who is from Dungiven, was interned between 1973 and 1975.
He served as a Limavady councillor before serving as an MLA between 2003 and 2010, when he stepped down.
A retired teacher, he and his wife Anne, who also left Sinn Fein over the abortion issue, are also well known on the music scene across Ireland and their son, Joe, is a former Derry All-Ireland winner and a GAA pundit with RTE.
In leaving Sinn Fein, he was critical of how the party sometimes forced members to behave. “There’s an element of control in how Sinn Féin organises itself - whatever you believe, in Sinn Féin you do what you are told,” he noted.