Repeal the 8th campaigners bring defiant note to London's St Patrick's day parade

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Elle Griffiths
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Words: Elle Griffiths

While most people out in London  for St Patrick’s day on Sunday were there for a good time, one group of women had a more important purpose.

Around 100 people from the London-Irish abortion rights campaign, a pro-choice group dedicated to repealing the 8th amendment in Ireland, marched in the capital’s parade for the first time.

The women dressed in ‘repeal the 8th’ sweatshirts and sashes and carried hand-made placards featuring famous Irish women from history.

Abortion is illegal on both sides of the border in Ireland and more than 9 women a day currently travel to mainland Britain to access the service, often alone.

Organisers explained their theme was “Stand in Awe of All Mná, inspired by the spoken word performance by Irish poet Emmet Kirwan that went viral back in January.

Speaking in The Irish Times, the group explained: “It feels odd to believe so much in a cause but be so wary about the public reaction.

“Our goal was simple: to make Londoners aware of the fact abortion is illegal in most circumstances in Ireland and thousands of women a year are therefore exported to British clinics.”

The women, many Irish born or of Irish descent, admitted to being nervous about the reaction they would receive from others in the parade.

But the event was well received, with cheers of encouragement and support from a range of people.

According to an Amnesty International poll, 87% of people in Ireland want access to abortion expanded. Of these, only 7% want expanded access limited to fatal foetal abnormalities. 80% want access at least in cases where a woman’s life or health is at risk or where the pregnancy is as a result of rape or incest, including 38% of these in favour of access in all circumstances.

Only 5% of people are opposed to abortion in all circumstances.

The London-Irish abortion rights campaign is one of several off-shoots of a co-ordinated campaign to pressure the Irish government to hold a referendum on repealing the 8th amendment.

Marriage equality was achieved in Ireland in 2015 after a referendum and campaigners are hoping to emulate this success. 

Image Credits: Rex Features / Twitter


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Elle Griffiths

Elle Griffiths is a freelance writer living in Brighton. She divides her time pretty evenly between despairing about American Politics, watching Mad Men re-runs and complaining about Southern Rail delays.