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Thursday 23 November 2017

Streets blocked as women 'strike' in abortion fight

Sisters Gillian and Laura McCullen at the demonstration on O’Connell Street in Dublin
Sisters Gillian and Laura McCullen at the demonstration on O’Connell Street in Dublin

Over a thousand protesters took to the streets calling for a referendum to allow for changes to the country's abortion laws.

Pro-choice campaigners brought Dublin city centre to a standstill yesterday as major roads were blocked and routes diverted throughout the day.

Chants of "Our body, our choice" and "Not the Church, not the State, women must decide their fate" were heard on O'Connell Bridge, Dame Street and at Government Buildings.

Strike 4 Repeal was staged by a group not affiliated with any other organisation.

Black

Those behind the protest asked people to "withdraw their labour" across all workforces, adding that it was not a strike in "the traditional sense".

Organisers encouraged people to take the day off, asked business owners to close and students to skip lectures.

Participants were encouraged to wear black in solidarity, even if they couldn't attend.

A Citizens' Assembly of 100 people is hearing from a range of experts and organisations on the topic of abortion and they will meet again next month.

Their conclusions will form the basis of future reports and recommendations on the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which makes abortion illegal.

Aoife Francis (26), from Dublin 7, one of the organisers of the protest, described the Citizens' Assembly as a "delaying tactic".

"We wanted to make the point that we weren't going to wait around. Obviously there's an appetite for a referendum," she said.

"I suppose when we started out organising it we knew that we'd get a good response because I think the people of Ireland have the compassion, the empathy and sense to know that we need to legislate for choice and for abortion in this country.

"But we didn't expect it to be so big. That just goes to show that movements like this are galvanising so much."

A second march took place from the Garden of Remembrance at 5.30pm and proceeded down O'Connell Street.

The marches coincided with International Women's Day.

A spokesperson for the Abortion Rights Campaign said: "It was such a vibrant event.

Pressure

"We're coming to the end of the Citizens' Assembly process and this was a great, energetic way to mark this day. The pressure is still on."

Demonstrations were held across the country and even in London.

Smaller groups of pro-life campaigners also took to the streets to stage counter demonstrations.

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