Tens of thousands Save the 8th campaigners march through Dublin 'to stand up for the right to life'

Tens of thousands of anti-abortion activists have marched through Dublin to demand the retention of the Eighth Amendment.

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

Voters will decide on the fate of the contentious Eighth Amendment of the Constitution in an anticipated referendum this summer.

The Pro Life Campaign has said that now is the time for politicians who believe in the 8th Amendment to make their views known.

Spokesperson Dr Ruth Cullen said: "It is now more important than ever for politicians who believe in protecting mothers and unborn babies to get involved in the campaign to keep the 8th Amendment. Many people who have come from all over the country to support the 8th will have children or friends who are alive thanks to this life-saving provision.

"This referendum will be the last chance for the people of Ireland to have a say on keeping abortion out of the country. It is vital that everyone who believes in the 8th Amendment takes this opportunity to stand up for the right to life."

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

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

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

Dr Maire Neasta Nic Gearailt explained: "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 also 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 also 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 'Save the Eighth' rally came days after thousands of pro-choice campaigners held a similar demo in the city.

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 Dáil yesterday.

That came 48 hours after the 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.

- Digital Desk

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