Plans to bring forward legislation to protect mothers who breastfeed in public have been branded “a mere gimmick” by East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson.
Mr. Wilson was commenting on a proposal by Health Minister Michelle O’Neill to introduce legislation for breastfeeding mothers to guarantee them “equal access to feed their children with confidence and without interruption in public” as those who are bottle-feeding.
The Sinn Fein MLA added: “ The details of this legislation will be consulted upon as soon practicable and I hope to introduce this to the Assembly at the earliest possible date.”
Last July, Mr. Wilson’s controversial remarks about breastfeeding were strongly criticised.
Mr. Wilson stated that it would “amount to exhibitionism” if women MPs were allowed to breastfeed in the House of Commons and he described it as “voyeuristic”.
Mr Wilson said: “It’s voyeuristic if you have the opportunity to do it somewhere that is much more private away from the glare of the public, the cameras etc.
“For me, anyone who chooses to do it in the chamber rather than the quietness of their office, is doing it for reasons other than simply feeding the child.”
Sinn Féin MLA Oliver McMullan said that Mr. Wilson should withdraw the controversial remarks he made about breastfeeding.
Mr. McMullan branded the remarks “disgraceful” and claimed they have “caused a lot of hurt and anger in the local area”.
“There is absolutely no justification for the language used by Sammy Wilson,” the Sinn Fein man said.
However, this week, Mr. Wilson described the Health Minister’s proposal as a “non-issue” and and described it as a “a mere gimmick”.
Mr. Wilson said: “It is a non-issue. I have never heard of someone saying they were asked to stop breastfeeding in a public place. In the end it all comes down to common sense.
“Also, the minister needs to clarify if there will be any limitations on where breastfeeding can take place, such as church buildings.
“Where do you draw the line and what criteria is used to determine that?”
Mary Caddell, regional officer of the Royal College of Midwives said: “Women should not feel excluded, condemned or judged for what is an essential act, and one which has health benefits for both the mother and baby.
“It is sad that we need legislation for this, but if it helps raise awareness of the issue, it can only be a good thing.”