Republic of Ireland news

Irish pro-choice campaigners make list of world's most influential people

Orla O'Connor, Ailbhe Smyth and Grainne Griffin have been included on the 2019 Time 100 list. Picture by: Chris Bellew/ Fennell Photography/PA
Aoife Moore, Press Association

Three Irish pro-choice campaigners in the abortion debate have been included in a list of the world's most influential people.

The former co-directors of Together for Yes said they are "honoured" to be included on the Time 100 list, Time magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Grainne Griffin, a founding member of the Abortion Rights Campaign (ARC), Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, and Ailbhe Smyth, convener of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, appear on the 2019 list in recognition of their work leading the Together for Yes campaign, leading up to the Republic's historic referendum last year.

Speaking in Dublin on Wednesday, Ms Smyth said the accolade was evidence of the significant international "ripple" impact of the campaign.

"The referendum result here in Ireland was a real boost for the morale of pro-choice campaigners throughout the word and we hope it can be a beacon of light wherever and whenever abortion rights are denied, restricted or under severe threat," she said.

"Where abortion is concerned, Ireland has moved from virtually total prohibition to a relatively pro-choice position – although, it must be acknowledged, that move took all of 35 hard, bleak years.

"Nonetheless, the referendum result marked a resounding defeat for misogyny and extreme right-wing forces."

Ms Griffin thanked the thousands of volunteer campaigners and organisations across Ireland, whose "dedication, hard work and commitment over months and, in some cases, years, ensured the success of Together for Yes.

"This was a movement that really demonstrated the extent to which organised individuals can shape and influence the world we live in. "

Ms O'Connor said the award was an accumulation of 35 years of work.

"The Eighth Amendment was a cruel and restrictive law and, through the honesty and the lived experience of women and families who suffered, the Irish public listened," she said.

"The Yes vote in Ireland had an immediate knock-on effect for women in Northern Ireland, who are currently denied the rights women have in Britain and now here in the south.

"Activists and campaigners in the north say they are seeing a groundswell of support, especially from young people, since the Repeal referendum.

"The NWCI, ARC and all of the many organisations that were involved in Together for Yes will continue to do whatever we can to support them in their struggle."

The issue of the lack of abortion services for women across the world, particularly in the north, was noted a number of times during the press conference.

Approximately 25 million unsafe abortions are carried out every year globally, a number that Ms Smyth says is unacceptable.

The ARC works closely with Alliance for Choice, an abortion rights campaign group set up in Northern Ireland, which says that in Northern Irelnd 28 women a week are currently travelling for terminations and face barriers to accessing care, most notably the three-day mandatory waiting period for an abortion.

Women from the north must also pay €450 £390) to access abortion services in the Republic. However, if they travel to England, the service is free.

The National Women's Council says that securing abortion rights for Northern Ireland is of the highest priority.

Ms O'Connor added: "We've formed a new abortion working group, and Alliance for Choice is part of that, the fight for reproductive rights is not over."

Other people on Time's 2019 list include Michelle Obama, Christine Blasey Ford, Nancy Pelosi and Taylor Swift.

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