Baroness Nuala O’Loan has said there is “no doubt” that many committed nationalist voters didn’t vote for the SDLP because of their position on abortion.
Writing in this paper, Baroness O’Loan said the SDLP “can no longer be accurately described as a pro-life party” given the way its representatives voted on abortion-related bills in the North’s assembly.
She also cited the example of SDLP assembly member Sinead McLaughlin who, two weeks before the election, said: “I’m sick of going round doors and listening to this never ending ‘what’s your position and what’s not your position around abortion’. Like, you know, seriously [it’s] 2022, go and get a life.”
“There can be no doubt that many committed nationalist SDLP voters did not vote for the party after these events,” Baroness O’Loan said. “The SDLP can no longer be accurately described as a pro-life party.”
She added that “Pro-life issues like the protection of unborn children do matter to many voters across the community”.
Meanwhile, Tracey Harkin of the Iona Institute NI said it is obvious that voters have had enough of the “groupthink” of candidates regarding issues like abortion and religious education.
“The SDLP have alienated so many voters, not just on the abortion issue, but also in the groupthink on issues like integrated education,” Ms Harkin said.
“On the integrated education issue, there is total consensus other than from the DUP regarding what it would mean for faith-based schools.”
Ms Harkin added that pro-life voters are “sick of the cowardice” shown by politicians in their position on abortion.
“A real groupthink set in, and voters are sick of the lack of intelligence and cowardice politicians showed,” she said.
“SDLP candidates would claim to be pro-life, but they have a platform, they could have spoken against the party leadership on these issues.”
Pointing to the success of pro-life party Aontú, Ms Harkin said that “I think people have had enough, they want candidates who have the courage to stand up on these important issues”.
To read Baroness Nuala O’Loan’s article on the SDLP click here.