'Repeal the Eighth', demand the thousands marching through city
Dublin city centre was at a standstill yesterday as thousands of pro-choice campaigners marched through the streets with a single message - repeal the Eighth.
A colourful swarm of demonstrators from far and wide gathered at the Garden of Remembrance, just hours after the Government signed off on the Referendum Bill paving the way for a vote on abortion.
Various groups held banners and placards, bearing messages like "Keep your God off my body" and "Time moves on. Why haven't we?".
A small plane was even seen flying above the marchers, carrying a banner with the words "Support Women. Repeal the Eighth".
Anne Hennessy, who travelled from Templemore, Co Tipperary, said: "It's about time that women are given control of their own bodies.
"I feel like the vast majority of the population agree that the Eighth Amendment is ridiculous and it's about time we had a referendum."
Aisling O'Connor (20), who grew up in Australia, told the Herald: "It isn't even a questionable issue or thing of discussion in Australia - everyone seems to be perfectly happy that women have a choice.
"I think it's very upsetting to see that Ireland is such a progressive country in some ways but totally backwards in others," she said.
A huge proportion of third level students attended the rally, highlighting how Ireland's strict abortion laws affect them.
Michael Kerrigan, president of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), said: "Millions of our young people have not had the opportunity to vote on this issue and arguably it affects our future generations more than any other.
"UK Department of Health statistics show that over a quarter of those giving Irish addresses with their services are women between 18-24 years of age. Because of the reality, no Students' Union has indicated that they wish to campaign to keep the Eighth Amendment."
Ailbhe Smyth, who has been at the forefront of each abortion referendum, believes Ireland has vastly changed compared to the 1980s. "There's so much more awareness on how damaging the Eighth Amendment has been for women," she said.
"Compared to the other referendums, I feel that this campaign has been much more respectful on both sides."
Ms Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, predicts the campaign will become even more challenging in the weeks ahead.
Earlier in the day, the Pro-Life Campaign held an awareness event outside Leinster House, marking International Women's Day.
The campaign criticised pro-choice groups for "hijacking" the day to push for abortion.
Speaking on behalf of the Pro-Life Campaign, Dr Ruth Cullen said: "Abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women. Feminist progress shouldn't come at the cost of pre-born lives.
"International Women's Day should be about recognising the achievements of women and how more progress can be made in this regard, but sadly it is increasingly being hijacked by radical pro-abortion groups to do nothing else but push for abortion."