Thousands march in Dublin calling for the Eighth Amendment to be retained

Leo Varadkar

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thumbnail: Leo Varadkar Newsdesk

Tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists have marched through Dublin to demand the retention of Ireland's restrictive laws on terminations.

The mass demonstration called for the preservation of the constitutional provision that enshrines the unborn's right to life.

Irish citizens will decide on the fate of the contentious Eighth Amendment of the state's constitution in an anticipated referendum this summer.

The 'Save the Eighth' rally came days after thousands of pro-choice campaigners held a similar demo in the city.

Activists travelled from all over Ireland to attend Saturday's event which crossed the city and culminated at Merrion Square outside Leinster House.

Among those taking part were doctors who support keeping the current laws.

They had a 100 euro "Specsavers" voucher for the Senator Catherine Noone, chairwoman of an Oireachtas committee which has recommended abortion law changes.

Dr Maire Neasta Nic Gearailt said: "There are a great many doctors out there who are deeply concerned by, and opposed to, these proposals.

"The fact that the Senator said she could not find us can be explained only two ways - that she did not really look, or that she simply could not see what was in front of her face.

"Perhaps if she had looked harder, she would have discovered what a poll of GPs revealed this week - that seven in 10 doctors do not wish to be part of the Government's abortion scheme.

"Doctors who oppose this radical UK-style abortion law may not have been listened to in Senator Noone's committee - but we will make our voices heard in the coming weeks.

"We trust that this time, Senator Noone will not miss us. But we enclose this voucher for Specsavers to be absolutely sure".

A number of different religious groups were represented, as were campaigners focusing on the rights of people with disabilities.

Also supporting the event was Bernadette Smyth from the Belfast-based anti abortion group Precious Life.

TD Mattie McGrath said on Twitter he was "delighted to meet so many people heading to Dublin for the @Savethe8thinfo rally. Buses and buses from all over Munster here!"

The Eighth Amendment affords the mother and unborn an equal right to life - thus rendering abortion illegal in Ireland in all but exceptional circumstances.

If it is repealed, the Government has pledged to legislate for unrestricted abortions up to 12 weeks into pregnancy.

A Government bill that aims to hold a referendum in late May was tabled in the Dail parliament on Friday.

That came 48 hours after the country's Supreme Court provided clarity on the extent of protections for the unborn offered by the constitution.

The judgment overruled a previous High Court ruling and made clear that the Eighth Amendment is the sole constitutional protection for the unborn.

That decision has reduced the prospect of future legal challenges if the amendment is repealed.