Anti-abortion activists march through Dublin

Anti-abortion protesters march through Dublin to campaign for the Eighth Amendment of the constitution to be retained in this summer's referendum. Picture by Caroline Quinn/PA
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

TENS of thousands of anti-abortion activists marched through Dublin to demand the retention of Ireland's restrictive laws on terminations.

The mass demonstration on Saturday called for the preservation of the constitutional provision that enshrines the unborn's right to life.

Irish citizens will decide on the fate of the contentious Eighth Amendment of the state's constitution in an anticipated referendum in May.

The 'Save the Eighth' rally came days after thousands of pro-choice campaigners held a similar demo in the city.

Anti-abortion campaigners travelled from all over Ireland for Saturday's rally.

It included Bernadette Smyth from the Belfast-based anti abortion group Precious Life. The march crossed the city and culminated at Merrion Square outside Leinster House.

Among those taking part were doctors who support keeping the current laws. They had a €100 "Specsavers" voucher for the Senator Catherine Noone, chairwoman of an Oireachtas committee, which has recommended abortion law changes.

Dr Maire Neasta Nic Gearailt said: "There are a great many doctors out there who are deeply concerned by, and opposed to, these proposals".

"Doctors who oppose this radical UK-style abortion law may not have been listened to in Senator Noone's committee - but we will make our voices heard in the coming weeks.

"We trust that this time, Senator Noone will not miss us. But we enclose this voucher for Specsavers to be absolutely sure".

TD Mattie McGrath said on Twitter he was "delighted to meet so many people heading to Dublin for the Savethe8thinfo rally. Buses and buses from all over Munster here!"

The Eighth Amendment affords the mother and unborn an equal right to life - thus rendering abortion illegal in Ireland in all but exceptional circumstances.

If it is repealed, the government has pledged to legislate for unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

A government bill that aims to hold a referendum in late May was tabled in the Dáil on Friday. It came 48 hours after the Supreme Court provided clarity on the extent of protections for the unborn offered by the constitution.

The judgment overruled a previous High Court ruling and made clear that the Eighth Amendment is the sole constitutional protection for the unborn.

That decision has reduced the prospect of future legal challenges if the amendment is repealed.

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