Wednesday 18 September 2019

Silence and dignity as Savita's adopted home remembers her

Jerome Reilly in Galway

THEY gently cupped their hands around the candles to shield fragile flames that flickered in the wind that whipped through Eyre Square.

Galway, the city that became home for Savita Halappanavar, remembered her with solemnity and grace.

Some came to register support for legislative change on abortion, others simply to mourn the loss of a young woman taken from them in the happy prime of her life as she looked forward to motherhood.

There also to pay tribute and remember were some of Savita's friends, those who had come to love the vibrant young woman who was an accomplished Indian traditional dancer and was looking forward to building her career as a dentist.

This should have been a weekend of joy and anticipation for Savita, a new life growing inside her and, in the week ahead, much to look forward to as the five-day Indian feast of Diwali was due to be celebrated by the Indian community who have made the west of Ireland home.

The Diwali festivities have been cancelled as a mark of respect and instead jasmine incense was burned and white flowers, the Hindu colour of mourning, were laid beneath Savita's portrait.

The candlelight vigil in Galway was attended by about 1,500 people, as other vigils took place in Carlow, Kilkenny, Limerick and London.

Silence and dignity marked the demonstrations on this most divisive of issues, now consuming the national consciousness once again.

Many women who attended – and the vigil was overwhelmingly female – brought their children.

Candles etched out Savita's name – re-lit time and time again as the wind extinguished the flames. As a woman played a lament on the concert flute a moment's silence was observed.

There were no speeches – just the heartfelt invocation that has become a leitmotif: "Never again."

The crowd dispersed quietly and respectfully. If there was anger, it was not evident. The rage was silent, the sadness palpable.

Savita's husband Praveen is thought to be on his way back to Ireland this week-end to return to their house at Roscam, just outside the city and so close to Galway Bay you can smell the sea.

A lonely journey to a lonely home.

Sunday Independent

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