Speaking after the Chief Executive of the Belfast Trust told the Stormont Health Committee that she had been forced to place security guards at the entrance to facilities providing much needed and legal healthcare to prevent anti-abortion campaigners intimidating staff and service users, Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU said

‘Intimidation of workers is never acceptable but it’s particularly shocking to hear that the very NHS staff who have been relied on throughout the COVID-19 pandemic are now being subjected to harassment and abuse at their places of work by anti-abortion campaigners.’

‘Trade unions have always spoken out about workplace intimidation, be it sectarian or racist and our message is unequivocal – it is never acceptable to intimidate or harass workers for any reason and this must stop. Trade Unions support the right to peaceful and appropriate protest, but when we are hearing reports that Trusts are having to move services or install measures such as reinforced windows and doors or security cameras because of the actions of anti-abortion protesters, we must be clear that this cannot be called peaceful protest and is in fact intimidation.

‘Access to safe and local abortion and reproductive healthcare is now thankfully legal in Northern Ireland. Staff who provide these much needed services and the women who urgently require them must be protected to go about their jobs without fear. The Minister must urgently consider ‘buffer zones’ around healthcare facilities to allow workers and patients to go unhindered.