MORE than 150 people gathered outside the Irish Embassy in London last night to express their fury at Ireland’s abortion laws.
Cries of “I am not a vessel” echoed down Grosvenor Place as people held up posters saying: “This brutality makes me ashamed to be Irish.”
The protest was called by London-based activists in response to revelations a suicidal young woman was denied an abortion in Ireland despite claiming to have become pregnant through rape.
“I left Ireland to find work in London, but I am not going to go home because I think it is an absolute disgrace that I am not in control of my own body in that country,” said Dubliner Emma Hamilton.
“It is barbaric what has been allowed to happen in Ireland and I am ashamed of my own country for what they have done. Things have to change.”
Cork man Michael Kearney told The Irish Post: “The situation at the moment is intolerable. I am living here with my girlfriend, who is English, and I want to move home at some point.
“But [my girlfriend] is afraid of going back to Ireland. We want to have kids and if something goes wrong what do we do? Do we bring her back over here to the NHS or do I leave her to die in Ireland?”
He added: “This is personal to everyone in one way or another.”
Protesters at the rally called for the repeal of the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution, which gives an unborn child the same right to life as its mother.
The event coincided with a similar protest in Dublin that attracted up to 2,000 people, according to some reports.
Dotted among the protesters in London were those who turned out at the same location in November 2012, when Ireland’s abortion laws were last thrust into the spotlight following the death of Savita Halappanavar.
Hazel Nolan, who attended both protests, described new Irish laws introduced this year to clarify when a termination can be performed as the “bare minimum”.
“It has not done anything to address any of the main reasons why women still have to travel over here for abortions,” she added.
“It was the least they could have done [introducing the new laws] and the fact it took them 20 years to do just that is disgraceful in itself because it makes it embarrassing to be an Irish person outside Ireland with people asking if that is really what it is like in Ireland.”
Today Irish ministers are due to announce the terms of reference for an inquiry into the care given to the woman whose story has re-ignited anger at Ireland’s abortion law.
The young woman, who cannot be identified due to a court order, learned she was pregnant shortly after migrating to Ireland. She claims she first requested an abortion when she was eight-weeks pregnant but was not assessed until she saw a GP 15 weeks later.
Under Ireland’s new abortion laws, she was then put before a panel of medical experts, who she says accepted she was suicidal but denied her an abortion because her pregnancy was too advanced.
The woman then went on hunger and thirst strike before consenting to have the baby delivered via a caesarean section at around 25 weeks.
For the full report from yesterday’s protest, buy next week’s Irish Post.