Indian community in Galway welcomes referendum result

Savita Halappanavar’s friend says result reflects a resounding trust in women

Galway's Indian community has welcomed the result of the referendum, describing it as "heartening" for the women of Ireland and for the family of the late Savita Halappanavar.

Ms Halappanavar, the 31-year-old dentist whose death in University College Hospital Galway in 2012 renewed the long-running debate on the State's abortion laws, was a leading member of the Indian community in the city.

Orthopaedic consultant Dr Chalikonda Prasad, who was a close friend of Ms Halappanavar and her husband Praveen, told The Irish Times that it was a "wonderful result".

“It is wonderful for all women, both Irish and immigrant, and reflects a resounding trust in women,” Dr Prasad said on Sunday.


“It is up now to the legislators to move swiftly and pass the legislation, so that nobody has to go over the water anymore,” he said.

Dr Prasad had provided close support to Ms Halappanavar’s husband after her death on October 28th, 2012, due to a septic miscarriage. Ms Halappanavar had requested an abortion several times, and was refused as a foetal heartbeat could be detected.

Dr Prasad said he had been “glued to the television as results rolled in on Saturday” and found it “very heartening” that the support for repeal of the Eighth Amendment had been as high as 70 per cent.

Socially conservative

He noted that parts of Connemara where views would be regarded as socially conservative had voted in favour of repeal. During tallies, a box in Cleggan in Connemara recorded an 80 per cent Yes vote – a level of support mirrored in parts of Galway city.

There are about 1,000 Indians living in Galway among some 10,000 in Ireland, and several members working in the city also said they were “delighted”.

“Galway didn’t vote quite as high as Dublin, but 66 per cent is very good,” one Indian businessman who did not wish to be named said.

Festival of lights

Ms Halappanavar is remembered annually by her community at the Diwali Hindu festival of lights in Galway. She had been central to its organisation and her death in 2012 had occurred just before the festival that year.

She was committed to teaching Indian dance, and had participated regularly in the city’s annual St Patrick’s Day festivals since moving to Galway in 2008.

At a vigil held by Galway Pro-Choice last year to mark the fifth anniversary of her death, Dr Prasad had questioned the religious influence on State-funded hospitals.

He noted that patients were constantly being reminded that they must “respect religion before medical ethics” by the presence of priests and religious iconography in hospitals.

“Even if there is a cardiac arrest and someone dies, the priest is among the first there . . . why should State-funded hospitals paid for by the taxpayer have such religious influence?”Dr Prasad had asked.

He said he believed the influence of the church on the State and Constitution was a “clear” cause of Ms Halappanavar’s death.

The choice to have a termination in pregnancy should be the mother’s, and “not the State, or the church or Joe Soap walking on the street”, he had said.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times