Cork marchers demand the repeal of the Eighth Amendment

Cork marchers demand the repeal of the Eighth Amendment
Members of the Cork Coalition for Repeal at Saturday's March for Change in Dublin.

There was a strong Cork attendance at the March For Choice on Saturday, where a crowd of up to 40,000 marched through the streets of Dublin calling for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and access to safe and legal abortion.

Almost 150 people gathered on Patrick's Quay at 7am on Saturday morning to travel up on the three buses organised by the Cork group, Rebels4Choice. Two other buses, organised by the UCC Feminist Society, also brought marchers from Cork to Dublin and more travelled by car.

The 6th Annual March for Choice marched on Dáil Éireann. Pic: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos
The 6th Annual March for Choice marched on Dáil Éireann. Pic: Stephen Collins/Collins Photos

It is the sixth year of the march but the first one since a provisional date has been indicated for a referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and the unborn child. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has suggested a referendum will be held in May or June.

Marchers were pleased the issue is being put to the people but said they have concerns about the wording. The Citizens Assembly recommended that abortion should be permitted in a wide range of circumstances but many politicians appear to favour stricter limits to access.

"There seems to be some backtracking on the wording, and what it will be," Tracey Ryan from Dripsey said. 

"We just want to remind them of the massive movement that is out here in the country, we are here and we are not going away."

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Dublin Saturday afternoon to take part in the annual March for Choice rally. Pic: Julien Behal
Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Dublin Saturday afternoon to take part in the annual March for Choice rally. Pic: Julien Behal

Ms Ryan brought her two sons with her, aged seven and 20 months.

"As a mother of boys, I think it is so important to teach them that when they grow up, if they have women partners, those women are in charge of their own bodies."

Ms Ryan's sons were two of many children who attended the march, from babies in arms up to teenagers marching with parents or in groups themselves. 

The atmosphere at the event was friendly, something Lauren Foley from St Luke's was keen to emphasise.

"I want politicians to see that we are happy, normal people who just want choices for women. It's not some angry, militant movement but it is an urgent issue and the fact that there are so many of us here today shows it needs to be addressed."

It was a first march for Sadhbh Corkery from Balinhassig and she hopes it will be the last time a protest is needed on the issue.

"If everything goes well, it will hopefully be the last one, I hope I don't have to come back again next year.

"It feels like a real cultural milestone for Ireland."

Cork City North-Central councillor Fiona Ryan said: "What was particularly inspiring was the huge numbers who came out to march for the first time."

She described it as 'an enormous mandate for change in Ireland' and added: "Over 40,000 people made their voices heard and sent a sharp message to parties that are attempting to prevent change on abortion rights that anything less than real change will not be acceptable."

Figures released in June showed more than four women a week travelled from Cork to the UK for an abortion last year.

UK Department of Health figures showed 241 women who travelled for an abortion in 2016 gave a Cork address, 9% of all Irish women who travelled.

Pro Life Campaign volunteers at the Pro Life awareness event on Saturday during the march for choice as it passes along the Quays in Dublin. Pic John Mc Elroy.
Pro Life Campaign volunteers at the Pro Life awareness event on Saturday during the march for choice as it passes along the Quays in Dublin. Pic John Mc Elroy.

The Pro Life Campaign (PLC) held an event in Grafton Street ahead of the march and a small number of counter-protesters were in evidence along the route of the march, which made its way from the Garden of Remembrance, down O’Connell Street and across the Liffey before rallying in Merrion Square.

Cork actress and comedian Tara Flynn acted as MC at the rally, where speakers included Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and Gerry and Gaye Edwards of Terminations for Medical Reasons.

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