Belfast Telegraph

Pro and anti-abortion rallies draw thousands into Belfast

By Victoria O'Hara

Thousands of people have attended two separate rallies in Belfast, one for and the other against changes to the abortion law in Northern Ireland.

At the anti-abortion rally, a Catholic priest thanked unionists for their support while, at the pro-choice demonstration, supporters were told Northern Ireland is "half a century behind" on the issue.

Unlike other parts of the UK, terminations in Northern Ireland are legal only to protect a woman's life or if there is a risk of serious damage to her well-being.

Attorney General John Larkin QC and Stormont's Department of Justice are both appealing a landmark High Court verdict that the near blanket-ban on terminations is incompatible with human rights legislation.

As Northern Ireland awaits the outcome of the appeal, debate has been raging.

At the weekend, two demonstrations - one organised by Choice Ireland and the other by All-Ireland Rally for Life - each attracted around 1,000 supporters to the streets of Belfast city centre.

The pro-choice demonstration attracted representatives from trade unions, campaign groups and political parties.

People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann said the aim of the march was for society to recognise women's rights.

"It ought not to be a radical demand, it's a democratic demand for women to have the right to control their own bodies," he said.

"Everybody who believes in progress must support a woman's right to choose and this message is spreading inexorably.

"We are half a century behind but we are catching up."

Meanwhile Aislinn (29), from Belfast, described the situation of accessing abortions in Northern Ireland as "shameful".

"I have a right to choose what happens to my body. I've been raised to know that women's rights are important and I'm grateful for that," she said.

Pro-choice activists including Diana King, who handed herself in to police in Londonderry earlier this year after buying abortion pills online, helped to conclude the event with a speech.

An anti-abortion rally organised by the All-Ireland Rally for Life began from Custom House Square.

Around 1,000 people were involved and held banners.

Among the speakers who addressed the crowds was Fr Aodan Cearbhill from Dublin. "I'm delighted to be up here with my unionist brothers," he said. "We in the south think they give us a good example to follow on the issue."

Pro-Life campaigner Bernadette Smyth stated: "We need to keep fighting for every unborn child and ensure that those children are given life."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph