Abortion campaigners clash outside the GPO ahead of Dublin Pro-Life rally
There were heated scenes in the capital as Pro-life campaigners clashed with Pro-Choice supporters ahead of a rally outside the Dáil against legalising abortion in Ireland.
Gardaí had to step in to restrain members from both sides as thousands of anti-abortion protesters marched down O’Connell Street towards the Dáil, where this year’s ‘Rally for Life’ demonstration took place.
The rally, organised by Youth Defence, the Life Institute and Precious Life, called for the public to abandon Amnesty International following pressure from the group, and the United Nations, to legislate for abortion in Ireland.
At around 2:30pm Pro-Life demonstrators began making their way down O'Connell Street towards their finishing point outside Leinster House.
Meanwhile, a counter ‘Rally for Choice’ simultaneously kicked off at the Spire on O'Connell Street.
A few hundred people attended the pro-choice rally, while upwards of three to four thousand anti-abortion campaigners marched towards the Dáil.
Gardaí estimated the crowd for today's rally at about 5,000 to 8,000. However, organisers insisted that the turnout was significantly higher.
The atmosphere was tense as pro-life demonstrators walked past the pro-choice rally in front of the GPO, and while some members of both groups shouted slogans at each other, Gardai said there was no major incident.
The theme this year’s ‘Rally for Life’ was that ‘Every Life Matters’, and organisers said they were calling on the public to abandon Amnesty “because they support the death penalty for unborn children”.
‘Rally for Life’ committee member Niamh Uí Bhriain said the anti-abortion groups were asking people to withdraw funding from Amnesty, and to switch to organisations “who genuinely speak up for all human rights, including the right to life”.
Amnesty International said the human rights of Irish women were being "violated" by Ireland's abortion laws.
Last month, the UN also released a report stating that Ireland's abortion laws were "highly restrictive" and recommended a referendum on the issue be held.
Ms Uí Bhriain said there was growing concern about moves to legislate abortion in Ireland “especially in regards to unborn children with disabilities.”
Pro-choice lobbyists said they organised their counter demonstration to show that the Pro-Life protesters did not represent the majority view of public opinion.
“We are standing in solidarity with the 12 women who travel everyday to England for an abortion,” said Laura O’ Connor.
“We are standing in solidarity with all those who have made a choice as to what to do with their own bodies.
“The right of a woman to control over her own body is a right still denied to women in Ireland.”