Varadkar accused of being ‘anti-Catholic’ in abortion protest

Activists said plan to assist women in North with abortions is ‘of great concern’

Northern Ireland anti-abortion campaigners have accused Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of being “anti-Catholic” as he launched a community festival in Belfast.

The Taoiseach ran into a vocal protest by the Precious Life group as he arrived at St Mary’s University College on the Falls Road.

Leader Bernie Smyth said: “We think it is an outrage that someone so anti-Catholic should be the guest of honour at a Catholic college.

“He is anti-Catholic because he has opposed Catholic values which uphold the right to life for the unborn child.

“I know it is not the bishops who are trustees of the college who invited him but I do know people have been phoning the bishops to complain.”

Landmark verdict

Ms Smyth said the group had been unable to stage a protest outside the Orange Order headquarters which Mr Varadkar visited earlier on Friday because they had still been travelling back from the landmark High Court verdict in London which was critical of the North’s abortion laws.

“Leo Varadkar is the man who has said he wants to create a pathway for women in Northern Ireland to access abortions in the south and this is of great concern to us,” she said.

“The reality is this is an issue for the elected representatives of Northern Ireland when we get our Assembly back.”

Mr Varadkar addressed the issue in a speech to launch the 30th West Belfast Féile an Phobail, saying he believed any right enjoyed by citizens in Britain and the Republic should be enjoyed by people in Northern Ireland.