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Anti-abortion group plans six-week protest outside Holles Street

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Warning: Professor Shane Higgins is the master of the hospital

Warning: Professor Shane Higgins is the master of the hospital

Warning: Professor Shane Higgins is the master of the hospital

The master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin has warned staff that an anti-abortion group plans to protest outside the building for six weeks.

The protest will be held by the group 40 Days for Life - an organisation with links to the United States - which describes itself as "internationally co-ordinated" with the aim to end abortion.

In a circular yesterday, Prof Shane Higgins said the peaceful protest would begin next Wednesday.

The group promised it would base itself across the road from the hospital from 7am to 7pm for 40 days.

He said the hospital would "do everything necessary to ensure that staff and patients can enter and leave the hospital unimpeded, and with dignity and privacy, and we have informed gardaĆ­ of this planned action".

"This particular group is suggesting that it will not obstruct entrances to the hospital," he said. "We will monitor the situation to ensure that this is the case. We would ask staff not to respond to any provocation or inappropriate activity in the vicinity of the hospital."

It was not an "appropriate place for political protest of this kind", he said.

Orla O'Connor, director of the National Women's Council of Ireland, criticised the delay in setting up safety zones around abortion facilities and she condemned intimidating protests that affect women and providers.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said Health Minister Simon Harris was committed to bringing forward legislation for safe access zones. She said: "He is meeting with opposition spokespersons later this month to discuss this. He assures women and healthcare staff that there is existing legislation in place to protect them and to protect patients."

Irish Independent