Cheers in public gallery as Derry City Council passes motion welcoming repeal of eighth amendment

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There were cheers in the public gallery as Derry City and Strabane District Council passed a motion welcoming the repeal of the eighth amendment on abortion in the Republic of Ireland.

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In a recorded vote, councillors voted by 22 votes to 12, with a single abstention, to pass the Sinn Fein motion which also called for the decriminalisation of abortion.

There were protests by both pro-life and pro-choice campaigners outside the Guildhall ahead of the monthly meeting of the council.

Sinn Fein's Sandra Duffy said she was overwhelmed by the support for her motion in the chamber.

"After the referendum, the North is being left behind," she said.

"This should not be a matter of criminal law, it is a health issue and we cannot simply pretend that abortion does not happen with women here.

"All women should have access to the healthcare that they need and should no longer be treated as second-class citizens."

Rejecting the motion, DUP Alderman Hilary McClintock said: "The result of the referendum in the Republic of Ireland has no impact at all in Northern Ireland," she said.

"This is a devolved matter and the DUP wants to see the Assembly restored so that it can deal with issues such as this.

"Some of those calling for change are the same people who are bocking a return to the Executive or to direct rule.

"The DUP is a pro-life party and I am making no apologies for that."

SDLP group leader on the council Martin Reilly said that it was a matter of conscience for his party.

"Personally, I will be supporting it because I feel that people in Derry and Donegal, or Dundee for that matter, should not be getting different treatment," he said.

"I feel that abortion is a health care issue and not a criminal issue."

Councillor Duffy's motion read: "This council welcomes the 'yes' vote to Repeal the Eighth Amendment; believes that full information and non-directive pregnancy counselling embodying all choices should be freely available to women and calls for a compassionate human rights compliant approach to healthcare, acknowledges that women should have access to safe and appropriate healthcare and thus endorses legislative reform and the decriminalisation of abortion."