Both sides in abortion debate clash at city rally
Varadkar 'will lose vote on Eighth Amendment'
Pro-life campaigners have vowed to dramatically ratchet up their campaign as the countdown to next year's abortion referendum gets under way.
Both sides of the debate came to verbal blows yesterday as tens of thousands of people took part in the annual Rally for Life march in Dublin.
Organised by groups that want to preserve the Eighth Amendment, activists said that any referendum on abortion will fail.
As the rally made its way down O'Connell Street it was met by pro-choice groups campaigning to repeal the controversial amendment to the Constitution.
However, the pro-choice campaigners were significantly outnumbered - their chants were drowned out by the more dominating presence of the pro-life activists.
Yesterday's march was attended by supporters of various anti-abortion groups, including the Life Institute, Youth Defence, and the Northern Ireland group Precious Life. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised to hold a referendum on abortion following the Citizens' Assembly recommendation that the controversial law be replaced.
The Assembly was set up to consider the Eighth Amendment and its effects on legislation and related issues.
Following various submissions, it voted to recommend to the Oireachtas that access to abortion in Ireland should be widened. Health Minister Simon Harris said he will work to ensure a vote on the issue takes place next year but he wants to carefully lay the groundwork for a civil national debate.
Read more: NI women get abortion right in Tory U-turn
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Niamh Ui Bhriain, of the Life Institute, said the size of the rally was a "clear message" to Varadkar that any referendum on abortion will fail.
"He's going to lose this referendum. He may think otherwise, because he lives in a media and political bubble, but ordinary people are saying we want to save the Eighth Amendment," she said.
"We don't believe abortion is the answer, and we're going to work together to make sure the referendum is defeated. You could see the dismay on the faces of abortion campaigners who came out today to protest against this rally. They don't realise the extent to which people in this country think abortion is a bad thing.
"When you talk to ordinary people, they think the prospect of abortion is a also a sad thing - and something they simply don't want."
She also stressed that the demonstration was the "real Citizens' Assembly".
Asked if abortion should be permitted in cases of incest or rape, she said abortion is "never the answer" as it involves taking the life of a human.
"We have to progress to a stage where we can see that killing another human does not solve society's problems," she added. "We have to support women who have been raped and who are in crisis. In our view abortion is medieval and barbaric, it's not something we want here."
She added the rally will act as a springboard for a series of events to be held before the proposed referendum to show the Government that the pro-life campaign is active.