Thousands of people attended a “Rally for Life” march in Dublin on Saturday. The annual march called for the protection of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits abortion in the State.
The march was organised by prominent anti-abortion groups including the Life Institute, Youth Defence, and the Northern Ireland group Precious Life.
Gardaí estimated between 10,000 and 20,000 were at the march which ran from O’Connell Street up to Merrion Square.
Opposing groups in favour of repealing the Eighth Amendment organised a counter-demonstration at the Spire on O’Connell Street.
The pro-choice groups, including People Before Profit, organised a column on either side of the street, which the march passed through.
Campaigners exchanged slogans and chants with gardaí keeping the peace between the sides. It was estimated around 200 people attended the pro-choice demonstration.
Tawnie Ocampo (22), who has been living in Ireland for two years, attended the pro-choice counter rally.
“I had an abortion when I was 16, since I’m from California I was very fortunate enough that I could have an abortion. Now when I live here I see that girls can’t make that decision for themselves,” she said.
“If I couldn’t have had an abortion, my Dad was very abusive so I would have been thrown out of the house. I didn’t have a job, or enough money to support a child at 16.”
She said she came out to protest at the Rally for Life march to show solidarity with women in Ireland, and to criticise the anti-abortion side’s arguments for retaining the Eighth Amendment.
“It angers me because they are trying to tell other girls what they can and cannot do with their bodies. They’re not going to be the ones supporting the child when its born. It’s none of their business, and who are they to say what we can and cannot do.
“There is a stigma with abortions, I guess that’s why I am out here now.”
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute, one of the organisers of the march, said the march was the “real Citizens’ Assembly”.
She said, this was where “massive crowds come to say that we should not repeal the right to life, and that we can do better for mothers and babies than legalising something as barbaric and regressive as killing children before they are born”.
Renua leader John Leahy and Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín attended the march. Mr Tóibín was previously suspended from Sinn Féin for breaking the party whip and voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill in 2013.
Aoife Pedruski, from Wicklow, said she attended the march because she believed “in the protection of life, from conception until natural death”.
“I have a lot of compassion for women who find themselves in a crisis situation, but at the end of the day I can’t compromise my decision when it comes to the fact that it is life.”
She said it was tense marching past the pro-choice counter-demonstration. ”I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I wouldn’t go to their march and come at them, I don’t know why they come at us so aggressively. I feel a lot of hatred from them,” she said.
Seán Deegan flew over from Scotland to get involved in the march.
“Ireland is a beacon of hope to all the countries where abortion is legal and where it is very liberal. I come over here to strengthen the pro-life movement here,” he said.