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Anti-fracking campaigner apologises for outburst at mum of woman who committed suicide

Tina Rothery
Tina Rothery

A leading Lancashire anti-fracking campaigner has apologised after an online row with a woman whose daughter committed suicide.

Tina Rothery, one of the Lancashire Nanas group which opposes Cuadrilla's shale gas operations, was filmed having the row with Conservative councillor Miriam Lewis at the Tory Party Conference in Birmingham on Tuesday.

Anti-fracking campaigners at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham where the incident took place

Anti-fracking campaigners at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham where the incident took place

Miriam Lewis' daughter, Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, whose father is Chorley Labour MP Sir Lyndsay Hoyle, was on her way to speak at a fringe meeting on domestic abuse and how she believed her daughter’s relationship had affected her state of mind before her death last December.

Ms Rothery was there with a group of county campaigners dressed as suffragettes who oppose the party's proposals to make fracking a permitted development under planning regulations which would mean exploratory drilling would not need planning permission. It also wants to take the final decision on allowing actual fracking to go ahead out of local authority hands.

In the video, Miriam Lewis could be seen engaging with other campaigners before coming to Tina Rothery, who stood as a Green Party candidate in the last General Election..

Ms Rothery said she challenged the Malden councillor as she heard her say that she supported fracking and asked her if she had children as fracking would affect their lives in future.

Miriam Lewis told her that her daughter had committed suicide and Ms Rothery can be heard saying; "So that means it's OK to effect other people's children then does it? Don't tell me that as if I should feel guilt."

She goes on to swear, before adding “You are agreeing to do things that are going to harm my grandchild. She doesn’t have the option to take her own life.”

The comments have drawn fire on social media and demands that the Green Party revoke Ms Rothery's membership.

Lytham resident Steve Mellor has written to Jonathan Bartley and Siân Berry, the Green Party’s co-leaders, calling on them to expel Ms Rothery.

He said: "I’m writing to you both as co-leaders of the Green Party. As a resident of Lytham St Annes I was appalled to witness the behaviour of several anti-fracking activists outside the Conservative Party Conference yesterday. This protest was publicised in the Blackpool Gazette on Saturday with your former leader Natalie Bennett quoted as a spokesperson with it stated that she was attending the demonstration.

"In the clip, you can hear prominent activist and former Fylde Green Party parliamentary candidate Tina Rothery aggressively accosting delegates, including a very troubling exchange with a lady who had recently lost her child to suicide.

"Ms Rothery herself streamed this event on Facebook. I am calling on you to distance yourself immediately and publicly from these bullying and distressing tactics and to eject Ms Rothery from the Green Party. Deeply held beliefs are not a sufficient excuse to subject other people to such cruelty.

Ms Lewis, a councillor in Maldon, Essex, told the Times newspaper: “I found it extremely hurtful. I thought it was a terrible thing to happen in a country that’s meant to be a democracy that people could be attacked so personally about something so sensitive and so recent.

"If this woman had an ounce of decency in her, she would have known that she was stepping way over the mark.”

Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: "The tragedy of Natalie’s death is something that all of our family are still beginning to come to terms with, it is not even a year since Natalie died and we miss her each and every day.

"There is simply no justification for these cruel and undignified comments reportedly made by this campaigner. I will be making no further comment.”

Today Ms Rothery apologised saying that she was passionate about her campaigning and had got carried away, adding that she had no idea who the woman was before the incident.

She said: "I did not attack Miriam for the loss of her child. Mothers everywhere would never do that. She had been telling members of the group that she supported fracking and we all feel so passionate about our cause and I acted out of character. I made comments that were extremely ill advised and I apologise unreservedly and unconditionally.

"I am terribly sorry that she has experienced the unbearable pain of losing her daughter to suicide."

A Green Party spokesman said: “We have today been made aware of comments made by a Green Party member at a demonstration outside Conservative Party Conference. The comments made were inappropriate. The member has apologised unreservedly and expressed her deep regret at making them, in a spur of the moment emotional exchange, at an event she was attending in a personal capacity and not as a representative of the Green Party.

“The Green Party does not condone these comments, and we acknowledge that a full apology has been made. No further action is currently being taken.”

Natalie Bennett, former leader of the Green Party, joined the women from Lancashire and said: “Conservative MPs and Councillors up and down the country are rejecting the Government’s plans to make gaining permission for shale gas drilling as easy as for building a shed, and to take fracking decisions away from local authorities.

“If these dangerous proposals go ahead it will seriously undermine local decision-making and silence the voices of communities. The Government must listen to colleagues in their own party and to the general public and scrap these deeply unpopular plans.”