Belfast Telegraph

Thousands attend opposing abortion rallies in Belfast

Opposing abortion rallies were held in Belfast on Saturday. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Opposing abortion rallies were held in Belfast on Saturday. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.

Thousands of people from across Ireland attended opposing abortion rallies in Belfast on Saturday afternoon.

Pro-choice groups held a 'Rally for Choice' at Writer's Square, while pro-life groups held a 'March For Their Lives' event at Custom House Square.

It comes after a silent demonstration by new pro-life group NI Voiceless attracted 20,000 people, according to the organisers, to Stormont on Friday night.

The opposing groups gathered on Saturday to show their support, or lack of for new abortion legislation set to be introduced in Northern Ireland.

In July, MPs passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, which contained a provision placing a duty on the Government to regulate to provide for access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

It comes into effect if the Stormont executive is not restored by October 21, with regulations required to be in place by the end of March 2020.

Currently terminations are only allowed in cases where a woman’s life is at risk or if there is a danger of permanent and serious damage to her mental or physical health.

Among those in attendance at the pro-choice march were veteran campaigner and former MP Bernadette McAliskey, former MLA Eamonn McCann and campaigner Elaine Crory.

Grainne Teggart, of Amnesty International, said the rights of women can no longer be denied.

She added: "Today's rally comes at a critical time. Following recent law reform at Westminster we will soon have decriminalisation of abortion and free, safe and legal and local services.

General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre.
Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Bernadette Smyth, from the anti-abortion group speaking in Custom House Square.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Bernadette Smyth, from the anti-abortion group speaking in Custom House Square.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Bernadette Smyth, from the anti-abortion group speaking in Custom House Square.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - March For Their Lives rally which has been organised by Precious Life in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Fr. Paddy Mc Cafferty speaking in Custom House Square.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Speaker Bernadette McAliskey pictured at Writers Square, Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Speaker Bernadette McAliskey pictured at Writers Square, Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Speaker Bernadette McAliskey pictured at Writers Square, Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Speaker Bernadette McAliskey pictured at Writers Square, Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye. Speaker Bernadette McAliskey pictured at Writers Square, Belfast
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 7th September 2019 - General view of the Rally for Choice in Belfast City Centre. Photo by Declan Roughan / Press Eye.

"For those facing prosecution this cannot come quickly enough.

"After many years of fighting, we are finally getting the equality we deserve. Any return to Stormont before October 21 must only happen with agreement on abortion reform on exactly the same terms as has been secured at Westminster.

"These rights have been long and hard-fought for, and we will not accept our rights being sacrificed for political expediency.

"The north is now - we are determined to make this a reality."

Speaking after attending the demonstration, Sinn Fein MLA Caral Ni Chuilin said: "Current legislation in the north is failing women and remains incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

"The issue of women's healthcare should be dealt with through legislative change.

"The first step in this process should be the repeal of draconian British legislation which criminalises women."

The pro-life event was led by Precious Life's Bernadette Smyth and Fr Paddy McCafferty.

Baroness O'Loan, a former police ombudsman, also spoke at the rally, where she laid blame for the imposition of new abortion legislation on Northern Ireland's "absentee" politicians, decrying the lack of an executive sitting at Stormont to represent the public.

She has previously said that the Westminster vote was a "denial of democracy".

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