Protesters pray and kneel outside Dáil ahead of abortion vote

Pro-choice and anti-abortion demonstrators support TDs on both sides at Leinster House

Groups of anti-abortion and pro-choice protesters are outside the Dáil today as TDs arrive for the debate and vote on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

Some 60 anti-abortion protesters have been praying and kneeling and carrying placards with pictures of foetuses and slogans such as “personhood begins in the womb”.

Four protesters kneeled at the gates as the whole group was guided through the mysteries of the Rosary.

Anti-abortion demonstrators had taken part in an overnight vigil and lined the entrance to Leinster House. They earlier cheered pro-life TD Colm Keaveney as he entered the building.

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Down the street two tents mark the spot where a small group of less than ten pro-choice protesters, all aged in their 20s, also stayed overnight holding signs such as “Never again”.

One of the protesters, Kerry Guinan (21), said they were there to support the TDs who were pro-choice."I am grateful that this Bill is finally being introduced, 21 years late, the length of my entire life" she said.

“I am here to say I demand free, safe and legal abortion and further down the line very soon I hope the eighth amendment would be repealed”. Ms Guinan would like to see amendments to the criminalisation element of the Bill which she describes as “hypocritical”.

There had been a “small amount of friction” with the other side and a “good few people approaching us to say prayers for us” she said. Theirs was not a counter-protest, she added.

One of the anti-abortion vigil organisers, Bernadette Smyth from Northern Ireland group Precious Life, said some 300 people had passed through the protest throughout the night.

She held out hope the Bill might not pass the Oireachtas. "I see a revolt happening within the Government…we will see more and more TDs oppose this outrageous unconstitutional Bill that will lead to the death of millions of unborn children in the future," she said.

“At this moment in time we cannot decriminalise abortion,” she said.

Her major concern with the Bill was the repeal of the 1861 offences against the person act in the Bill. “That would leave Northern Ireland very vulnerable,” she said. “This is our personhood act”

Also hopeful of u-turns was protester Thomas (declining to give his full name), who travelled from Armagh last night. Asked whether TDs might change their minds he said, “prayer is powerful” and it can “do anything” “I am here to be a voice for the unborn” he said.

As the group reached the fourth sorrowful mystery there was a large cheer. “I think that was Peter Mathews” Ms Smyth said.

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery

Genevieve Carbery is an Assistant News Editor at The Irish Times