WATCH: 'This is our Rising' - Repeal protest finds its voice at pro-choice rally

Sarah Ryan, Aifric Bruen, and Chloe Winders at the protest against the 8th Amendment on Saturday. Pic: Fergal Phillips

After a while, we stopped counting and began, instead, to time the endless waves of people who braved the rain, and bus strike, to march in the biggest pro-choice rally the country has seen.

It would take a total of 26.5 minutes for the sodden crowd and all the paraphernalia of protest — banners, real drums, frying-pan drums and loud speakers — to pass, 10 or more abreast, into the northern end of Merrion Square in the city centre.

That might be 20,000 people, as some estimates put it, or it might be more, but whatever the final tally, it proves one thing — the movement to repeal the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution has gathered unprecedented momentum.

Hundreds more protested in 25 cities around the world, from Paris and Phnom Penh to New York and Toronto.

No wonder Abortion Rights Campaign spokeswoman Linda Kavanagh told the crowd at the fifth March for Choice to take photographs and to take selfies. “You’re going to want to remember this moment,” she said. “This has been an exceptional year for pro-choice activism.”

In 2016, the number of regional pro-choice groups increased from seven to 17, and some 65 organisations supported Saturday’s march.

But what was more striking than the numbers were the voices; articulate, loud and straight-talking. No one was afraid to speak their truth, from the organisers and activists right down to first-time marcher Aideen Quirke who came from Cork to join friends and relatives to march for choice.

“I’ve never even been on a march before, but this is too important. Something has to be done. In Tipperary [her native county], 70 women went to England for abortions last year,” she said.

A new generation has grown up since Ireland voted in a referendum in 1983 to insert the eighth amendment into the Constitution.

As the crowd marched from the Garden of Remembrance through the streets of Dublin, there were others who spoke out against abortion. One man shouted, “abortion is to stop a beating heart” from the sidelines, but the counter-protests were few.

This was a day for the pro-choice movement and the campaign for free, legal and safe abortion in Ireland. There were high-profile marchers — actor Cillian Murphy among them — but the spotlight was on ordinary women (and men) who held their banners high.

“Treat us like queens, not breeding machines,” read one. “Ovary reacting for choice,” read another, and there was an impressive array of womb puns, such as “Womb for improvement” and “To womb it concerns”.

The march was bookended by speeches from women who fleshed out the experiences behind those slogans.

“This is our Rising,” said organiser Linda Kavanagh. “Enough blood has been spilled, enough women have died. No more shame, no more silence, no more stigma.”

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