Belfast Telegraph

Thousands march at opposing abortion rallies in Belfast

The Rally for Choice parade in Belfast
The Rally for Choice parade in Belfast
Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte at the March For Their Lives rally in Belfast

By Aoife Moore

Thousands of people on both sides of the abortion debate took to the streets of Belfast on Saturday.

The Rally for Choice gathered at Writer's Square in support of recent Westminster legislation to change abortion law.

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

Marchers held signs and posters which read: "The north is now" - which has become a rallying cry for pro-choice activists after the Republic of Ireland's landslide referendum to liberalise their own abortion laws in 2018.

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.

"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.

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.

"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.

NI Voiceless says there is no support in Northern Ireland for the plan to allow access to abortion in the region.
NI Voiceless says there is no support in Northern Ireland for the plan to allow access to abortion in the region.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
DUP leader Arlene Foster at the rally at Stormont attended by around ten thousand people.
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Alan Lewis- PhotopressBelfast.co.uk 6-9-2019
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan .
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan
Press Eye - Abortion Protest Walk - Stormont Estate - 6th September Photograph by Declan Roughan

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

The March For Their Lives, an anti-abortion rally, gathered at the nearby Custom House Square.

Baroness O'Loan, a former police ombudsman, spoke at the anti-abortion 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".

Tyrone manager Mickey Harte was also pictured at the March For Their Lives rally.

On Friday night, thousands of people staged a silent demonstration at Stormont against the planned liberalisation of abortion laws.

Protesters gathered at the front gates of the estate before walking to Parliament Buildings.

They stood in silence, with heads bowed and holding lights, for six minutes, to represent the six counties in Northern Ireland.

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