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‘Exclusion zone’ calls at healthcare sites as anti-abortion campaigners move to Daisy Hill entrance

'Patients and staff are rightly extremely annoyed that they can’t attend appointments or work without being confronted by horrific posters and slogans'

Daisy Hill protest

Newry, Mourne and Down Council is set to discuss concerns relating to the ongoing protest by anti-abortion campaigners at the entrance to Daisy Hill Hospital.

A motion to the council from Sinn Féin highlighting the issue will also ask that Council write to Health Minister Robin Swann and Justice Minister Naomi Long urging them to take steps to ensure that “any member of the public accessing sealthcare services be entitled to do so in a safe and secure environment, free of trauma”.

The introduction of exclusion or safe zones is one possible measure being advocated.

Speaking about the situation Councillor Roisin Howell said: “In recent weeks at John Mitchell Place and now Daisy Hill Hospital, patients and families wishing to avail of the healthcare services on offer at both these sites have had to face walking the gauntlet of distressing images, placards and slogans.

“This is certainly not something that any person should have to face when accessing healthcare, particularly those that have suffered miscarriages or accessing mental health and wellbeing services.

“Daisy Hill Hospital provides a vast range of services, including support for women who have suffered miscarriage and stillbirth. No woman or member of healthcare staff should face this type of disturbing abuse when accessing the facility.

“It is completely unacceptable that women or indeed any member of the public accessing any type of healthcare should have to face this distressing situation whilst on their way to appointments, especially those who may be dealing with already very difficult, physical, mental and emotional circumstances.”

Councillor Oonagh Magennis echoed colleague’s sentiments.

She said: “The distressing scenes witnessed outside John Mitchell Place Healthcare Village a month ago have unfortunately now moved to right outside the entrance to Daisy Hill Hospital.

“Patients and staff are rightly extremely annoyed that they can’t attend appointments or work without being confronted by horrific posters and slogans.

“Both the Health and Justice Ministers need to act to ensure that these types of protests are somehow dealt with by the authorities.

“Everyone has a right to protest, however there is no excuse for the causing of distress to women and children and I would sincerely hope that this motion to council will be unanimously supported by all.”

Meanwhile, Newry and Armagh Sinn Féin MLA Liz Kimmins has confirmed that she has written to both the Justice and Health Ministers demanding that they take appropriate action to ensure that people accessing Daisy Hill Hospital can do so without fear .

The MLA said: “A diverse range of people access many services in Daisy Hill Hospital. No one needing to attend healthcare services should feel fearful or indeed threatened by any type of protest no matter what the issue.

“I have been contacted by many distressed people. I am absolutely disgusted with what they have told me about the very graphic images and scenes they have been confronted by.

“I have written to the Justice Minister Naomi Long and Health Minister Robin Swann demanding that they take appropriate action to stop this behaviour.

“Myself and my colleagues are pressing the Ministers to introduce exclusion zones or safe zones outside healthcare sites to ensure anyone accessing healthcare – whether staff or patients – can do so in a safe and secure way.”

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