Campaigners in Dublin say they are “overwhelmed” and “emotional” as abortion is set to be decriminalised in Northern Ireland.
A rally tonight brought together many of those who campaigned in the historic Repeal the Eighth campaign, which saw a landslide victory for abortion rights in 2018.
Dozens of people gathered at the Spire in the city centre, holding signs and banners reading “The North is Now” and “Free, safe, legal and local”, as speakers described their joy that their “sisters and brothers in the North” would have the same rights as those in the South.
People Before Profit TD Brid Smith told the PA news agency that although there had been much joy in Dublin Castle the day abortion rights activists won the referendum, those involved had always kept women in Northern Ireland at the forefront of their minds.
We're at the @DunL4Choice for Choice and Equality rally at the Spire to mark the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland, which will happen at midnight tonight #TheNorthIsNow #FreeSafeLegalLocal pic.twitter.com/Hr4Va0nJrK— Abortion Rights IE (@freesafelegal) October 21, 2019
“Women will no longer be criminalised in Northern Ireland for procuring abortion pills, something we’ve already seen at least three times for women there,” she said
“We always said, that day in Dublin Castle, and people held up banners saying ‘The North is Next’ and now we can say ‘The North is Now’ – it’s a historic day.
“This is a refreshing moment, that indicates that this is a people of Ireland, not a united Ireland, but a people north and south who fought very hard for their rights, and I wish I was in the six counties for the parties tonight.”
Ms Smith criticised the DUP’s actions today, sitting in Stormont for the first time in more than 1,000 days, in an effort to prevent legislation being implemented.
“It was a political stunt, all the crises that have been happening in that time have been ignored by the DUP in terms of putting together the Assembly to discuss the future of the island,” she said.
“Sinn Fein were right not to take their seats today, it was never going to happen that they could do anything legislatively.
“This is an issue for the people of Ireland, who are united on issues on abortion rights and same-sex marriage.”
Linda Kavanagh, from the Abortion Rights Campaign, said she could not believe that it had happened.
“We’ve always been an all-Ireland campaign, and so for those in the North to get free, safe, legal abortion access from midnight, I’m overwhelmed,” she said.
They have full de-criminalisation now, that’s not something that we have achieved here yet, so it’s incredible to see that happen so quickly, and we’re so happy to be here to mark this incredible day.
“When we got repeal, it felt like we were leaving our siblings in Northern Ireland behind, because they had come down and really dug in with us.
“This is a really historic day, but it doesn’t mean that the work is over, the work is going to continue.
“It continues here. And it continues in Northern Ireland, because we see they still have six months to wait until actual provision can happen.
“But in the meantime, we’ll be here and they’ll be there, working away to make sure that everybody can get the abortion access and health care that they need.”