As Dublin city was brought to a standstill, Sarah Harford caught up with the strike action as protesters marched through the capital.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin yesterday in support of the Strike 4 Repeal campaign.
The group behind the strike, who describe themselves as ‘an ad-hoc, non-affiliated group of activists, academics, artists and trade unionists’, were seeking to put pressure on the Government to change Ireland’s abortion legislation.
Video by Sarah Harford
“We’ve been really surprised and overwhelmed by the support we’ve gotten,” said Claire Brophy of Strike 4 Repeal.
“It has escalated the pro-choice movement for 2017, and drawn attention to the urgency of this issue…It’s really shown that there is a need for change and that people want change.”
The group began picketing at the Department of Justice at 10.30am, before moving on to the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Health.
The strike gathered momentum and support as protesters marched through the city, chanting refrains such as “Enda, Enda, we want a referenda” and “this is what democracy looks like.”
A selection of posters from the strike, images by Sarah Harford
At 12.30pm, the group reached O’Connell Bridge where thousands of people had gathered. Traffic in the city centre was brought to a halt as the strike occupied the bridge for over two hours.
Wednesday, which was also International Women’s Day, saw demonstrations take place across the country and internationally.
An additional march took place in Dublin that evening, organised by the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment, which drew large crowds into the city centre once again.
Reform not repeal
Ireland has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe. The eighth amendment to the Constitution, which was introduced in 1983, guarantees that the right to life of an unborn child is equal to that of the mother.
A poll released last week by The Irish Times and Ipsos MRBI revealed that people are cautious about repealing the eighth amendment in its entirety.
The majority of those polled said that they are in favour of changing the current legislation, but do not wish for there to be unconditional access to abortion.
Some 77 percent of respondents said that abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest, with 76 percent in favour when a woman’s life is at risk or if the foetus will not survive outside of the womb.
However, this number falls to 28 percent where a woman believes she would be unable to cope because of her age or circumstance, and 11 percent if the foetus is past 24 weeks.
Overall, the data suggests that the public is ready for some sort of reform on the issue of abortion law in Ireland.
The Citizen’s Assembly, which is still ongoing, is set to report on the matter at the end of June. Only then will recommendations be brought to the Government, and a decision will be made on whether to hold a referendum.
It seems that a decision on the status of the eighth amendment is still far off, but the key phrase of those striking in streets of Dublin yesterday was “we won’t wait.”