Hundreds march to mark 10th anniversary of the death of Savita Halappanavar

Activists have pledged to campaign for a permanent memorial to the woman whose death galvanised the Repeal movement

Activists pledged to campaign for a permanent memorial to Savita Halappanavar as hundreds of people marched through Dublin city centre on Saturday to mark the 10th anniversary of her death.

The march got under way at the Garden of Remembrance and stopped for a minute’s silence at the Repeal mural at the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar before concluding at City Hall on Dame Street where a number of speakers addressed the crowd.

Among those attending the march was Tarini Beeruka (21) from India who came to Ireland to study a year ago.

“When Savita died, I was very young,” she said. “I saw the news in India that somebody from India had died in another country because she was not able to get an abortion.


“That was the first time I had heard about Ireland. It was the first time I had heard about an Indian woman dying.

“From then, I have always seen people marching in different countries, showing their support, and now I have finally reached Ireland and am able to be a part of this protest.

“I was there in India, seeing her die, and now to be here to support and remember her really means a lot to me. I came to Ireland just this year, so when the news came out that there was going to be a march for Savita, I had to come.”

Ms Halappanavar’s death at Galway University Hospital on October 28th, 2012 is credited with having galvanised a massive grass-roots movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which stated that the unborn had an equal right to life to that of the mother. Inserted into the Constitution in 1983, it was repealed in May 2018.

The 31-year-old dentist was 17-weeks pregnant when she presented at Galway University Hospital on October 21st, 2012 with severe back pain. She was told she was miscarrying and was admitted for observation.

She asked for the pregnancy to be terminated several times over the next two days but was refused as the foetal heartbeat was present. She spontaneously delivered a female foetus on October 24th and was transferred to the high dependency unit and then the intensive care unit, having developed sepsis. She died on October 28th of septic shock.

Cliona McEnery (19) from the United States said she was marching because she was angry at the overturning of Roe v Wade, which previously enshrined the right to an abortion in the American constitution.

“I’ve been very, very angry about this for a long time,” she said. “When I heard there was going to be a protest, I wanted to get involved and I wanted to show up. When Roe v Wade was overturned, I had never been so angry.”

Among the speakers at the march was activist Ailbhe Smyth who said reform of the current abortion laws was required.

“I am marching today to honour the memory of Savita Halappanavar whose needless, deeply sad death was the spark that ignited a massive movement for change leading to a momentous leap forward for reproductive rights and for equality in Ireland,” she said.

“We are proud of what we achieved, but there is a great deal more work to be done to ensure that everyone who needs abortion can do so.

“Research and experience show that significant reform and expansion of the current abortion law is required, along with countrywide provision of comprehensive primary care and hospital services.

“Without the provision of widely accessible services, an abortion law is not worth the paper it’s drafted on.”

The march was initiated by ROSA and supported by a wide range of organisations.

In a statement, Pro Life Campaign spokeswoman Eilís Mulroy said it was “unfair and disingenuous” to use the anniversary of Ms Halappanavar’s death “to push for an even more extreme expansion of the Irish abortion law”. She said her death was “not caused by the Eighth Amendment as campaigners for abortion have incessantly claimed”.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter