THOUSANDS of anti-abortion campaigners held a vigil outside the Dail last night urging the Government not to introduce abortion under any circumstances.
The group said the vigil sent a clear message to Fine Gael "not to betray their pro-life promise to protect women in pregnancy and ensure that the duty of care to the baby is also upheld".
Caroline Simons, a lawyer and member of the Pro Life Campaign which organised the protest, told supporters that "once the Government tries to legislate for the X Case, there is no going back".
"Any reassurances that you're going to be given over the next two months that abortion won't be introduced and they're going to talk about medical intervention on limited grounds is false," she told the large crowd.
Supporters, ranging from members of the clergy and church groups to college students, children and adults of all ages and backgrounds, stood in the rain for more than an hour as the Government began debating the report on the expert group on abortion inside the Dail.
The 58-page report favours legislation coupled with regulation among the options that it sets out for Ireland to comply with as part of the European Court of Human Rights judgement in 2010.
The court ruled that Ireland's current abortion laws do not protect the constitutional right to life of the mother as set out by the Supreme Court in the 1992 X Case.
The rally was attended by a number of bishops who had been at a conference in Maynooth earlier in the day.
They were led by Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam, plus Bishop Leo O'Reilly of Kilmore, Bishop Philip Boyce of Raphoe and Bishop Seamus Freeman of Ossory.
Bishop Kieran O'Reilly of Killaloe and Monsignior Eamon Martin, diocesan administrator for Derry, were also there representing the four dioceses of Ireland.
A church spokesman said the rally was "well organised" and attended by people from all over Ireland.