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Spar supermarket chain in Northern Ireland caught up in promotion of anti-abortion agenda

A majority shareholder linked to the Spar supermarket chain in Northern Ireland has been caught promoting a strong anti-abortion agenda which is against any legal reforms in Northern Ireland, it has been revealed.

In December 2018, Ardbarron Trust Ltd, a Christian Charitable Trust and majority shareholder in Henderson Group (which runs the Spar wholesale and retail grocery business in Northern Ireland), made a submission to the UK’s Government’s Women and Equalities Committee seeking to influence its decision making on Northern Ireland’s abortion laws.

In its submission, Ardbarron Trust Ltd, wrote: ‘The law in NI, as it currently stands is pro-life and that is our deeply held conviction to protect unborn children. Life is God’s gift to us and we are thankful that the current legal framework in NI has protected many, estimated at 100,000 people alive today as a consequence.’

It goes on to say: ‘Devolution has protected the unborn as locally elected representatives made clear in February 2016… The number of abortions carried out in GB is staggering and often for social reasons only… We are glad that Northern Ireland is “out of step” with the rest of the UK and the wider world.’

Humanists UK, which campaigns for the legalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, said it was shocked by Ardbarron Trust Ltd’s submission and says the Northern Irish public deserved to know that Spar has links to an anti-abortion, anti-women’s rights agenda.

Abortion law in Northern Ireland is one of the most restrictive in Europe and the criminal sanctions imposed are amongst the harshest in the world, with the maximum sentence being life imprisonment.

Current restrictions force women to either travel to the UK to receive treatment, risk prosecution for procuring illegal online abortion pills, or continue their pregnancies against their wishes and in violation of their rights. There is no exception made for pregnancies that arise as a result of sexual crime or where there is a diagnosis of fatal foetal abnormality.

Humanists UK has also learned that Spar stocks Ashers Bakery products and that Ashers Bakery also made a submission to the Women and Equalities committee. Ashers Bakery made headlines after the famous ‘gay cake’ case where the Bakery refused to bake a cake with a slogan that supported same-sex marriage.

Northern Ireland Humanists coordinator Boyd Sleator said: ‘It’s shocking that a majority shareholder in one of Northern Ireland’s biggest retail chains is making submissions about women’s reproductive rights to the UK Government, promoting views that are very harmful to the rights of women and totally counterproductive to the hard work being done to legalise abortion in Northern Ireland.

‘Spar in Northern Ireland, and across the UK, should make clear that it does not hold the same views as Spar in Northern Ireland’s majority shareholder, and take a strong stance by distancing themselves from these views and this company.

‘Employees, along with customers who shop there, deserve to know that this franchise has links to stopping progressive reforms of women’s rights in Northern Ireland. To press for something that the European Convention of Human Rights has specifically said is against people’s human rights is completely deplorable.’

NOTES:

For more information contact Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator Boyd Sleator at boyd.sleator@nihumanists.org or on 07918 975 795 or press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk.

Read our latest news item on abortion in NI here: https://humanism.org.uk/2018/10/22/humanists-back-new-efforts-in-parliament-to-decriminalise-abortion-in-northern-ireland/

For more information about Humanists UK’s campaigning work on abortion, visit

https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/public-ethical-issues/sexual-and-reproductive-rights/

Humanists UK recently intervened in a Northern ireland abortion case. Read more at

https://humanism.org.uk/2018/09/18/humanists-uk-to-intervene-in-northern-ireland-abortion-case/

At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

Northern Ireland Humanists is a part of Humanists UK, working with the Humanist Association of Ireland.

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