Thousands attend pro-life abortion rally in Dublin
Thousands of pro-life campaigners took to the streets of Dublin urging the Government to scrap its plans for new abortion laws.
As Taoiseach Enda Kenny dismissed calls by Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin to give TDs a free vote on the legislation, organisers said well over 40,000 people attended the vigil at Merrion Square.
Pro Life Campaign spokesman Caroline Simons said the mass turnout was evidence that the middle ground of Ireland is concerned about the loosening of Ireland's strict abortion regime.
"There are people here who never attended a pro-life event before," Ms Simons said.
"The message is getting through that this legislation is not restrictive or about saving women and children's lives, despite the repeated claims by the Taoiseach and his Government."
She said it is "time for the spin to stop" and claimed that even the medical profession is divided over the legislation.
The Government hopes to implement the new laws by July.
If enacted, the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Bill 2013 will legalise abortion where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother, including the threat of suicide.
The bill aims to legislate for the X case judgment from Ireland's Supreme Court, which found abortion is legal if there is a real and substantial risk.
The case was taken by a 14-year-old rape victim who became pregnant and was refused permission to travel for an abortion.
The loosening of the rules is also intended to meet requirements from a European court decision that found a woman in remission from cancer should not have been forced to travel oversees for a termination.
But pro-life campaigners have claimed this could lead to widespread abortion.
"It's clear from who is cheerleading this bill what it's really about, and that's abortion on request," Ms Simons added.
"This is inevitable, once a suicide threat is the basis for certifying an abortion."
"There is still time for the Government to change its plans by focusing on guidelines instead of the legislation for the X case.
"This way, we can meet the requirements of the European court without opening the door to abortion."
The campaigners claimed the vigil today was the largest ever pro-life demonstration in the country and one of the biggest gatherings so far this year.
Women Hurt, a group made up of pro-life women who have experienced abortion, was also represented at the vigil with an address from spokesman Adele Best.
Elsewhere, Archbishop Dr Martin called for the Government to get rid of the party whip on the issue of abortion, which he described as a matter of conscience in an interview with the Irish Independent.
But the Taoiseach remained steadfast, saying the legislation was a Government decision and that TDs were expected to toe the party line.
The husband of Michaela McAreavey, John McAreavey sent a video message of support to the rally which was attended by a number of members of the catholic hierarchy including Bishop Michael Neary, Bishop Leo O’Reilly and Bishop Philip Boyce.
They had earlier attended a prayer service at which Archbishop Diarmuid Martin again reiterated his call for Government TDs be allowed a free vote on the abortion legislation.