Better to light a scented candle than curse the darkness of Leinster House
Chris Murray waved a painted paper lantern on a stick. “My children, Jack and Ruby, made this on St Martin’s Day last weekend – it’s a German festival. I’m meeting them on Kildare Street and you’ll see us all holding up our lanterns.”
“Never again! Never again!” chanted the marchers.
Trinity College students Alison Connolly (Dublin), Tara Roche (Galway) and Clare Kealey (Dublin) were part of a 30-strong group.
“Woman Up and Legislate!” demanded Alison’s placard. Tara carried a scented candle in a glass. “And I’ve brought my mom,” said Clare.
The mom, Bernie, held a candle (pomegranate fragrance) in a little ceramic bowl. “My daughter Anna is in America and would love to be here. She sent me this candle and asked me to carry it for her today,” she said. Kathleen Lynch, from UCD and “a proud Clare woman”, marched with her daughter Nora (24), along with Kathleen’s golden labradors, Poppy and Bonnie.
The light faded significantly by the time we got to Grafton Street and the candles came into their own.
When the head of the protest reached the gates of Leinster House, people were still rounding College Green. There were speeches from the back of a truck and the crowd cheered when a turnout of up to 20,000 was announced.
Gráinne Griffin (24) from the Choice Network ran out of candles. “I had about 500 in the bag and I thought I’d be ages giving them away. But they went in no time,” she said.
“I’m here because I’m furious. I’m just so angry.” It was dark and circles of white lights now framed the images of Savita on the banners.
Gráinne pointed towards them. “People haven’t been listened to for 20 years and this is what it’s led to.” In her impassioned address, ULA deputy Clare Daly castigated Taoiseach Enda Kenny for saying he would not be rushed into a decision. “He sat in the Dáil for over 30 years while 150,000 Irish women were exported out of here. . . to maintain the hypocrisy that there are no Irish abortions.”
When speakers made political points, it was abundantly clear that the crowd wasn’t interested. Attempts to start a “Shame on Labour” chant went nowhere.
A minute’s silence was observed in memory of Savita. The only sound was the rasping of flints as candles were lit.
The crowd dispersed and the flames were extinguished. A bright light glowed above the main entrance to Leinster House.
But the building was in darkness and the doors were closed. And it remains to be seen whether all those touchingly optimistic girls in their furry-eared hats will still be marching when they are 50 – assisting the cynical 80-year-olds to light their candles so they don’t set fire to themselves in frustration.