I want you to give us a date for a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment Enda

“We are walking in the rain,” my friend Dave tweets, “to support thousands of women who have to face an ocean.”
I want you to give us a date for a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment Enda

IT IS Saturday, September 24, 2016. My alarm goes off at 5.45am.

It is dark outside but I can hear the rain beating against my window and all I want to do is pull the duvet over my head and go back to sleep.

But I don’t. I don’t because today is important. I leave the house at 7am, my father warning me of flooded roads and telling me to ‘drive slowly’.

He doesn’t like when I drive in the dark in this kind of weather but he doesn’t tell me to stay at home. He knows today is important too.

On the train to Dublin, I try and nap but I can’t stop scrolling through my Twitter feed.

There are messages of support from all over the world, similar protests being planned in London, Montreal, Paris, Berlin, and New York.

I can feel my excitement build as I see the photos of other people making their journey to Dublin, of their refusal to be deterred by inclement weather.

“We are walking in the rain,” my friend Dave tweets, “to support thousands of women who have to face an ocean.”

As I disembark from the train, an elderly woman grabs my hand. She has seen my ‘Repeal’ sweater, she tells me.

“Thank you,” she says. “Thank you.”

It always breaks my heart when older women say things like that to me. What stories do they have? What secrets have they kept? And for how long?

I battle my way through the crowds at the Garden of Remembrance.

The amount of people here seems almost incomprehensible, especially when you take the rain and the bus strikes into account.

Tens of thousands of people, men and women, young and old, marching together because we believe in empathy and kindness.

Because we believe that women should have the basic human right to bodily autonomy.

Because we trust women.

The sense of solidarity is incredible. There are whispers of celebrities marching, that Cillian Murphy and Hozier are standing with us.

I see people I know and we hug each other, and we say how glad we are to be here, to be a part of this movement.

There is a ripple of something indescribably powerful moving through the crowd, as if our beating footsteps are rupturing the earth beneath us, shattering this archaic status quo into shards.

It feels as if something is shifting, like real change is finally imminent.

I had joked earlier that I didn’t care about the rain, that my righteous anger would keep me warm, but in the end it was actually a sense of overwhelming love that infused me.

Love for my gals who were walking beside me, for my friend Louise who marched despite being 40 weeks pregnant, for the people passing by who clapped and cheered the marchers on, for the organisers who worked tirelessly and often thanklessly to ensure the event would go ahead.

Everyone I see seems to be wearing a ‘Repeal’ sweatshirt, and I feel so proud of Anna Cosgrave for what she has created.

Just one person and an idea. Sometimes that’s all it takes, in the end.

But no matter how joyous the march is, I cannot help but think of the women who had travelled before us, fled these shores in order to find the help they needed.

Their ghosts walk with us, hungry, alone, scared, their mouths sewn shut by a Church and a state that tried to silence them with shame.

I mouth the words of ‘We Face This Land’, the beautiful poem by Sarah Griffin:

“A body is a body is a body is a body is a body is a body is a body

“Not a house. Not a city. Not a vessel, not a country. The laws of the church have no place on your flesh

“A veterinarian will abort a calf if a cow is falling ill. How is it that livestock is worth more to this land than us ...

“We ask for the land over the water. Home over trial. Choice over none. For our foremothers, ourselves, the generations yet to come

“Witches or women — these are our bodies which shall not be given up”

We will not be silenced anymore.

We will not be shamed.

For these are our bodies, our decisions. Our lives.

Sometimes I wonder about what I would have done if I had lived in a different time to now.

Would I rage against racism in 1940s Mississippi?

Would I have refused to be swept along in a wave of anti-Semitic fever if I had lived in Nazi Germany?

Would I have fought for women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century despite the grave social and personal consequences?

Would I have travelled to Belfast on the Contraception Train in 1971?

Would I have been brave?

Or would I have stayed silent for the sake of an easy, comfortable life?

It’s impossible to know, of course, but as I was sitting on the train home to Cork that evening, shivering in my wet clothes, I felt a sense of peace.

I was glad I had been there.

I was glad that it when it came to my chance to stand up for what it is right, I had done so.

I was glad that when, in years to come, people shake their head in horror at the barbarism of forcing women to travel abroad to avail of often life-saving medical treatment, I will be able to say that I did my bit.

I will be able to say that I was on the right side of history.

I will be able to say that I stood up and fought for equality.

And I wasn’t alone.

There were thousands of us, marching on the Dáil, demanding our voices be heard.

And what did we get from Enda Kenny?

“No comment.”

That’s not good enough anymore, Enda.

I don’t want to hear you say that you have no comment.

I want you to give us a date for a referendum on repealing the eighth amendment.

Are you listening?

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