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A bishop in Northern Ireland has received an apology from Sinn Fein after it misrepresented his position on abortion.
The row followed the distribution in west Belfast of a Sinn Fein leaflet claiming that the party’s view on the termination of unborn babies was “shared” by John McAreavey, the Bishop of Dromore, in County Down.
In fact while Bishop McAreavey opposed abortion under any circumstances, Sinn Fein’s policy makes allowances in cases of rape, sexual abuse and incest, or where the woman in question’s life or mental health are in danger.
Bishop McAreavey said he was "appalled" that his “good name” had been “impugned,” adding that it “defies belief” that any political party could be mistaken about the Church’s position.
The leaflet was issued in the names of Member of the Legislative Assembly Sue Ramsey and Upper Falls councillor Matt Garrett.
Sinn Fein West Belfast MP Paul Maskey said: "It has come to my attention that a number of letters were issued in west Belfast by local representatives on the issue of abortion in response to queries from constituents. These letters seriously misquoted and misrepresented the position of the Bishop … in this fundamental area of church moral teaching. Sinn Fein accepts that references in the letter to Bishop McAreavey were inaccurate and these letters should not have gone out. I apologise unreservedly to the bishop for any hurt and distress caused.”
Bishop McAreavey said he accepted the apology but added: “I cannot emphasise enough the seriousness of this action which has misused my good name and impugned the teaching reputation of my ministry as bishop … how any political party could be mistaken about the pro-life position of the Church defies belief.”