Better to light a scented candle than curse the darkness of Leinster House
Dublin vigilFor older people, there was a weary familiarity about a march on abortion
They lit candles in the abortion capital of Ireland and stood in silent protest. But it was a small gathering in London.
Dublin was different.
Saturday’s “March for Savita” was a solemn occasion – tinged with sorrow at the death of a young woman and suffused with anger at the failure of successive Irish governments to legislate on abortion.
It’s been 20 years since the Supreme Court handed down judgment in the X case, but politicians have dodged their responsibility to act on it.
And it’s 30 years since a poisonous referendum campaign (on both sides) ended with a constitutional ban on abortion.
What has changed over those years? Nothing much.
The arguments grind on, the marchers march, the legislators ignore and the furtive trips by Irish women to English clinics continue.
But the candles are classier.
On Saturday, when winter darkness fell and the temperature dropped, an unmistakable scent of summer hung in the air around the Dáil.
Pleasing pockets of fragrance punctuated the long lines of people moving slowly towards Leinster House, hints of lavender and vanilla and rose wafting up from flickering candles cupped in cold hands.
That’s women for ya, as a certain former taoiseach might say.
But this wasn’t only a women’s march, even if the floral nature of many flames added a feminine note to the candelight vigil.
The crowd mustered in late afternoon. The turnout looked poor, made up of what seasoned protest observers might call “the usual suspects”.
Some took the opportunity to hand out flyers for this weekend’s austerity protest.
But after the appointed hour, people suddenly converged on Cavendish Row in great numbers, with homemade placards and candles, children and buggies and dogs in tow.
For older people preparing to march, there was a weary familiarity about this event – been there, done that, admired the slogans decades ago . . .
“Am I going to have to do this again when I’m 50?” was the question on one young woman’s placard; “20 years later and we’re still protesting” proclaimed another, held by a girl wearing a hat with furry ears on it and surrounded by her furry-hatted friends. They were barely out of their teens.
The march moved off in driving rain, the crowd swelling all the time.
Vickey Curtis from Dublin 7 was with 15 friends, all wearing headbands displaying a large letter X.
“I thought of Savita and what happened to her, and I thought about the X case. If it was any of us, we’d just be deemed another X too. We want to show unity and want to call for change.”
A man in a bobble hat walked along, holding up a piece of cardboard. It read: “My mother is a woman.” There was a quietness about onlookers along the route. Perhaps it was the sight of the large coloured banners. Made by NCAD students, they featured a stylised image of Savita Halappanavar’s face.