Thousands attend Savita vigils around the country

 

Thousands of people attended candlelight vigils in Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny, Carlow and London this evening to demand the Government legislate on abortion following the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Beginning at the Garden of Remembrance, the Dublin march crossed O’Connell Bridge and snaked its way towards Dáil Eireann.

It was headed by a giant banner which read “Never Again”, adorned with images of the 31-year-old Indian dentist.

Organisers of the Dublin march said about 20,000 people had turned out, but a Garda spokeswoman said they estimated the figure to be between 10,000 and 12,000.

“Twenty years is far too long; ignoring women’s rights is wrong,” bellowed from a megaphone at the front of the procession. Loud, angry cries of “Never Again” filled the air.

By the time the demonstration reached Merrion Square, its tail end was still crossing O’Connell Bridge.

“The anger extends beyond Ireland,” organiser Sinead Kennedy of the Irish Choice Network told the crowd as they huddled in the rain at the beginning of the march.

“For more than 20 years we have seen political cowardice and inaction on this issue. The theme of this march is ‘never again’. Never again will a woman be allowed to die,” she said.

At the end of the demonstration, several speakers took to a makeshift stage on the back of an old truck to rouse the crowd and whip up a commitment to further protests.

Sinead Ahern of Choice Ireland told them that there were similar demonstrations around Ireland and the world.

“As huge as the crowd is today we are only part of what is happening today. Today we march and today we stand in solidarity.”

In the past, she said, “Irish people stood up and said it wasn’t acceptable. Twenty years later we are awaiting legislation to say that it isn’t acceptable.”

Over 1,000 people attended a similar gathering in Eyre Square in Galway, organised by the Galway Pro-Choice group.

Earlier today members of the Indian community in Galway held another ceremony outside University Hospital Galway, where they lay white roses under a photograph of her Ms Halappanavar.

Gardaí said this afternoon they are assisting the Coroner in relation to Ms Halappanavar's death.

A spokesman for the gardaí said this was "standard procedure in the case of a sudden death."

Earlier, the Health Service Executive said they have been in contact with legal representatives of the late Mrs Halappanavar's husband about the inquiry that is being carried out into her death.

A spokesperson for the HSE said this morning that a letter of condolence was sent to Mr Halappanavar in the days after his wife's death in Galway University Hospital last month, and they had communicated with his lawyers in Ireland in recent days.

Mr Halappanavar told The Irish Times last night from India that he had heard from no one in the HSE, the Department of Health, the Taoiseach’s office, the Department of Foreign Affairs or the Irish Embassy in New Delhi, and that he was "very worried" about what sort of inquiry will be established into her death.