A row has erupted over remarks about sexuality and abortion made by Independent candidate Dr Anne McCloskey, at a hustings event in Londonderry this week.
Dr McCloskey made wide-ranging comments during which she expressed reservations about the liberalisation of abortion legislation in Northern Ireland.
However, it was comments about sexuality that provoked the ire of at least one other candidate and several online commentators.
“Girls in this town have I think...women’s liberation has got us to a very bad place for a lot of young women who regard themselves as, just, receptacles of semen, and if they don’t want it they can get rid of it and that to me is not what human sexuality is about,” said Dr McCloskey.
People Before Profit candidate Eamonn McCann interjected at this point, describing the comment as “disgraceful.”
He asked Dr McCloskey to withdraw it but she replied: “It’s true.”
Now Mr McCann has claimed he was the only candidate at the hustings event to object.
“When Anne McCloskey said that women’s liberation had gone too far and that young women in this town were acting as ‘receptacles for semen,’ I immediately interrupted to describe the remark as ‘disgraceful’ and tell her to take it back. None of the other panellists spoke up to support me, and that includes Maeve McLaughlin. There wasn’t a syllable from her,” said Mr McCann.
“Now Sinn Féin is claiming that their representative spoke out but that, by implication, I didn’t. This is the direct opposite of the truth.
“Anyone can check this. A recording of the exchange made by a local journalist has been put up on Facebook by People Before Profit. Sinn Féin is trying by dishonest means to gain advantage on this issue.
“I call on Sinn Féin to withdraw their claim, to admit that their representative said nothing at the time and acknowledge that, in contrast, another panellist immediately intervened to object.”
Dr McCloskey had been speaking about sexuality and sexual health prior to the ‘receptacles of semen’ comment.
She had stated: “Women nowadays and young people, I think, are taking control of their sexuality in a way that they never did before and I think it’s to be encouraged and welcomed.
“Women should have control of their fertility, absolutely, contraceptive services should be freely available, you know, and I think that’s one of the things we need to work towards as a society and I think we are getting there.
“Young women now have a range of contraceptive services and young men as well.”
Dr Anne McCloskey also spoke against abortion during the event.
She said: “There is no line following the implantation of pregnancy, there is no line at which you can say well now if the cut off point, now is the cut off point, now is the cut off point and hence we have abortion legal up until the point of birth.”