Thousands march against Eighth Amendment in Dublin

International Women’s Day protests call for access to abortion care in Ireland

Protesting outside a number of Government buildings, members of the the Strike 4 Repeal campaign took the streets of Dublin to seek a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Thousands of people marched in Dublin on International Women’s Day on Wednesday calling for the removal of the constitutional ban on abortion.

On Wednesday night, thousands marched from the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square to Leinster House.* 

The demonstration was organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, an alliance of about 80 groups.

Earlier, the Strike4Repeal movement said volunteers had organised meetings and demonstrations across the country throughout the day.

Events took place in counties Dublin, Cork, Mayo, Kilkenny, Meath, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick and elsewhere.

The Eighth Amendment, which was inserted into the Constitution after a referendum in 1983, asserts that the right to life of an unborn child is equal to that of its mother.

The Strike4Repeal campaign encouraged people to take the day off work to call for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, following a similar action in Poland in October against the tightening of abortion laws there.

In Dublin, Strike4Repeal supporters gathered at the Department of Health offices in the city centre shortly after noon before marching along the Liffey quays.

They chanted for a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Chants from the marchers included: “Whose streets? Our streets!” and, “Women’s rights are workers’ rights; same struggle, same fight.”

Marching along the quays, the protesters also chanted: “Not the church, not the State, women must decide their fate”, and, “They say airfare, we say healthcare”, in reference to the number of people who travel outside the State for abortions.

Numbers

Many of the women and men wore black, including sweatshirts with “Repeal” printed on them.

Their numbers grew as they approached O’Connell Bridge and the protest eventually circled the bridge’s entire traffic island by lunchtime, when the crowd appeared to exceed 1,000.

Traffic initially moved slowly through the protesters, but eventually ground to a halt.

A Garda helicopter appeared overhead at about 1.20pm, and the marchers lifted their banners skywards towards it.

Among the marchers was Rose Ward, from Sutton in Dublin, who said she believed women “need to be able to control their own bodies”.

“I think it’s so important that it’s just a choice. I don’t think it [the Amendment] is pro-life, I just think it’s anti-choice, to be honest.”

Ms Ward said she had just turned 18 and would like a referendum on the Eighth Amendment to be her first vote.

Sharon Nolan and Siobhán Cawley both took the day off work and came to the march from Galway.

“Access to abortion care, for anyone in this country with a uterus, is paramount for our healthcare,” Ms Nolan said.

“The impact that it has, the lack of consent that you have for any medical procedure you have when you’re pregnant, is atrocious. It’s harming people’s lives and I will do anything to fight against it.”

Ms Nolan, who works for a tech company, said she had been able to take the day off. “I have a very understanding boss.”

Later in the afternoon, several hundred of the protesters marched to the Central Bank to join up with the Bus4Repeal group of pro-abortion campaigners who have been touring the State this week.

Campaign

That campaign was organised by Rosa (for Reproductive Rights, against Oppression, Sexism & Austerity), which was behind the abortion pill train to Belfast in 2014 .

About a dozen protesters from a new anti-abortion grouping called the Irish Centre for Bioethical Reform stood opposite the protesters on Dame Street holding huge posters.

The street was partially blocked for a time as some of the pro-abortion campaigners crossed the road and began chanting slogans at the other group.

Global protests

A series of strikes and other protests were staged by women across the world on Wednesday to mark International Women’s Day.

Women from more than 50 countries were involved in the first International Women’s Strike to show solidarity with the global women’s movement.

The theme for 2017’s International Women’s Day – which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – is #BeBoldForChange.

Meanwhile, Focus Ireland said on Wednesday the charity had marked International Women’s Day by highlighting the 96 per cent increase in the number of homeless women in Ireland.

It said that, in January of this year, there were almost 2,000 homeless women in Ireland, up from 1,017 in the same month in 2015.

International Women’s Day moved to March 8th in 1913. It was recognised by the UN – which now decrees the annual theme – in 1975.

* This article was ammended on Thursday, March 9th. An earlier version of this story stated 2,000 people marched from the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square to Leinster House on Wednesday night. On Thursday, the Repeal the Eighth coalition estimated there had been about 8,000 at this march. On Wednesday night, the group said gardaí had informed organisers the attendance was between 10,000 and 12,000, based on numbers stretching from O’Connell Bridge to Parnell Square. A Garda spokesman said the force could not confirm attendance numbers in relation to such events.