Trinity students joined a several thousand-strong crowd in the city centre today for the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment’s Votes for Repeal march, which coincided with International Women’s Day.
The Union of Students in Ireland (USI), as part of its Students for Choice campaign, gathered a student bloc at Front Square at 4:30pm, composed of Trinity students and those from other colleges.
Siona Cahill, USI Deputy President, addressed the crowd, evoking the suffragettes and acknowledging the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which allowed some Irish women to vote for the first time. Alice MacPherson, Education Officer of Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU), also recalled events past, pointing to a statue of George Salmon, a former provost who opposed women studying in Trinity, and outlined a history of “ignoring or deferring” problems faced by women.
Cahill introduced a number of speakers on the steps of the Dining Hall, including Alannah Murray, the 21-year-old founder of People with Disabilities for Repeal, who said she created the group as “I felt like we weren’t being given a voice”. Today, she said: “I am here because I trust every one of you…I trust you to make the decisions that work best for you.”
Matt Kennedy, a University College Dublin (UCD) student, poet and LGBT activist, said that the eighth amendment “is something that should enrage every one of us,” before reciting a poem on reproductive freedom, while founder of Our Table Ellie Kisyombe told the crowd “I can’t even travel” due to her limited freedom of movement as a direct provision resident.
“Go kind. Be gentle,” Noeleen Hartigan, a former UCDSU sabbatical officer, said. “This isn’t about demanding, this is about persuading.” At the top of the Dining Hall steps, 12 suitcases were placed, to symbolise the 12 women per day who travel to the UK to obtain an abortion.
The students then began their walk to the Garden of Remembrance, where at 5:30pm a national march in favour of repealing the eighth amendment commenced. The crowd moved towards the Customs House, where a number of pro-choice activists made speeches.
The march was not the only significant eighth amendment-related news this International Women’s Day, as the Cabinet officially passed the referendum bill for the repeal of the eighth amendment this morning.
The Coalition to Repeal the Eighth Amendment is group made up of over 100 separate organisations, which aim to both encourage and enable people to work together in order to remove the eighth amendment from the Constitution. In total, the Coalition represents more than 1.5 million people.
Votes for Repeal marches also be took place in other cities around the country, including Galway and Cork, while Services Industrial Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU) and Irish political parties including Labour and the Green Party took part in the Dublin march today.
Additional reporting by Aisling Grace