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Poor turnout in Ireland for Vigil for 'Life' despite massive spending
Saturday in Dublin saw another desperate attempt by the anti-choice coalition to prevent legislation coming to the Dail (Irish parliament) to allow abortion where a women's life is under threat. Despite months of preparation, a spend that must have ran close to a million euro, and the parish priest at every mass in the country telling catholics they should attend, less that 15,000 turned up. Compared to the 150,000 women who have had to travel to obtain abortions in the last ecades this amounts to almost nothing, a handful of bigots bussed in from all over the country. [Italiano]
There are always rows about numbers in the aftermath of such gatherings and we are not going to claim to have counted the crowd - neither did anyone else as we didn't see any counters there despite the fact that the very controlled entry point would have made this easy to do. What we can however say is that the space the demonstration took place in is far too small to fit the initial 25,000 both Caroline Simmons and Eoin de Faoite, the normally secretive leader of Youth Defence, proclaimed from the stage. Some hours after the demonstration the organisers decided it was smart to claim an even more ludicrous 30,000 plus probably because of the ease with which they got the media to swallow the 25,000. The Facebook page of Youth Defence front 'Family & Life' went so far as to claim the crowd 'looked like' 50,000.
There is nothing new in this, Youth Defence also tries to multiply the number of people who attended their demonstration in November by a factor of 3 to turn a very poor turnout of 2-3000 into 10,000. In anticipation of this, a group of WSM members went to the Vigil for Life and walked though it from end to end several times to estimate crowd density, see who was really there in order to be able to offer a reasonable estimate of the total number of those so bigoted in Ireland that they would want to deny women a life saving abortion for religious reasons.
Our members there made the following points
- there were enormous piles of expensive full colour pre-printed placards. No one was being allowed in with their own placards, our members witnessed one angry woman arguing with three stewards who were refusing to allow her enter with a placard that read 'The 'Kingdom' says no to abortion' (pic below). Garda appeared to be helping with this operation, we saw stewards confiscate a giant cross from a red cloaked figure and the cross was then carried into a tent (see photo) by a Garda. We are not sure quite what law the guard concerned imagined he was enforcing.
- the vast majority of the crowd was elderly people and their grand children. It was noticeable that there were very few women who were actually of the age where they might become pregnant but also as with previous events those that were present had been pushed towards the front to create misleading photos & video for propaganda use by Youth Defence and other organisers.
- there were groups of Spanish, American & British anti-choice activists present and according to twitter at least one such US activist said that his airfare to Dublin had been paid for in order for him to attend. Not enough to make any difference in numbers but it does remind us of the way the fight to deny women control over their own bodies is seen as a crusade by the so called 'pro-life' movement internationally.
- the street (Merrion Sq South) was sealed off at both ends by very large numbers of stewards who were looking everyone over who entered the area and refusing entry to some people. It was not clear to us what law allowed them to claim the right to deny entry to a public street.
In terms of the numbers present our members reported that the crowd was not at all closely packed and that the entire footpath on the south side was sealed off by crowd barriers, reducing the available width of the street considerable. They also reported that from about 15 minutes after the 4.30 start time repeated announcements were made asking the crows to move back because there was a crush at the front but that no such crush was reported by a photographer from Rabble who was on the stage. Presumably this was simply to get the limited attendance to move back to appear to fill more of the street. By they time our members left the area some 22 minutes after the advertised start time the back 1/3 of the street was still pretty empty (see photo) - and there were only limited numbers of people still arriving.
The maximum area occupied was thus defined as being between the two stewards barriers at either end of Merrion Square South. Some of that space was taken up by a number of tents, the huge screens and the large stage. And as above, the footpath on the south side was entirely blocked off behind barriers. So there was a very definite maximum space that could have been occupied.
Our members present used the Crowdsize app on a Smartphone to estimate how many people might have been present (see picture above). This is a simple process of pulling up a map of the area, drawing a box around the area occupied - very easy in this case as it was entirely enclosed by crowd control barriers and then entering a density estimate for the crowd. We were actually very generous and went for the maximum available density despite the fact it was obvious the crowd was not packed in that tightly. As can be seen below this suggests a maximum crowd size of 14,370. There is no physical way to fit 25,000 people into the available space without them being on each other shoulders - and the Vigil for Life crowd were really not up to such rock concert conditions. 30,000 or 50,000 are simply ludicrous estimates that would have required stacking people three high.
One could argue that there was considerably less than 15,000, due to the stage, screens and tents but lets accept it for now. In the last decades 150,000 women have had to 'vote with their feet' by making the expensive and often difficult journey abroad for an abortion. For every ten of those women only one bigot was wiling to spend an hour in Merrion square to demand that women in future should also have to undertake that journey. Very, very few of those bigots were women of child bearing age.
Given the enormous amount of money spent, and the order from the alter last Sunday that catholics should attend, this small turnout is a disaster for the anti-choice movement and for the catholic church. Despite laying on buses from every corner of the country only a tiny, tiny percentage of catholics listened to their priests and attended. The organisers are highly secretive of their funding both in terms of how much is spent and where that money comes from, but it is no exaggeration that if they had hired people for a tenner an hour to stand and listen to their speeches they would have bought a crowd two or three times the size of the 15,000 that attended.
On a positive note Saturday also saw a national meeting of pro-choice activists in Dublin which launched the 'Abortion Rights Campaign'. This intends not only to make sure the government legislate for X but much more importantly to fight for all women by demanding that access to abortion should be free, safe and on request as part of a funded public healthcare system. Those who gathered in Merrion Square are the fading ghosts of the grim Ireland of yesterday, the future belongs to those fighting for womens' rights and against the religious bigots who have dominated social policy in Ireland for far too long.
WORDS: @Andrew Flood
This is a preliminary report to which we will be adding further information over the next 24 hours - we have also a Facebook album of this event and the counter protest
Mon 30 Mar, 20:57
Ireland - Migrant X refused an abortion and forced to have a C-section 22:31 Thu 21 Aug 0 comments
This is as complete a story about what happened to 'Migrant X' that we are aware of. Migrant X is a young migrant women who it emerged was refused an abortion by the Irish state despite apparently meeting the grounds of the X-case legislation and instead forced to carry the pregnancy and agree to a C-section. The pregnanacy itself was the result of rape, Migrant X attempted suicide after being refused the abortion and later went on a hunger and thirst strike. Once what had happened to her became known there were sizeable pro-choice solidarity demonstrations called across Ireland and at Irish embassies overseas. We have been given information that the migrant woman at the centre of the current forced pregnancy was 'committed' to a psychiatric hospital following her initial request for termination. It’s already known that the initial request was made when she was 8 weeks pregnant. It was this crucial period in which she was being held incommunicado which led directly to the Caesarian option being possible to impose as an ‘alternative’ to allowing her to access the abortion she had asked for.
20 years on X case to finally be legislated 17:40 Wed 19 Dec 0 comments
This afternoon the government had finally confirmed that it is to legislate for abortion access under the conditions of the X-case. While we can welcome the failure of the anti-choice movement to stop this announcement, despite frantically spending a quarter of a million dollars euro in ten days, this is so little so late that it is almost meaningless.
Irish parliament blockaded by 100s after 3rd refusal in 6 months to legislate for X-case 22:59 Fri 30 Nov 0 comments
Last night saw hundreds of pro-choice activists blockade the gates of the Dáil after TD's once more refused to pass X-case legislation. Twenty years after the X-case and one month after the death of Savita Halappanavar women in Ireland were told once more that the politicians had not had enough time. The political parties, in particular the Labour Party, were once more engaged in a cynical game of playing politics - a game that leaves pregnant women at continued risk in Irish hospitals.
Countering the Irish "Pro-Life" Rally - Pro-Choice Counter Demonstration 20:50 Thu 07 Jul 0 comments
WSM and other pro-choice activists took place in a counter demonstration to the “Rally for Life” which took place in Dublin on Sunday 3 July 2011. The anti-abortion rally was organised by Youth Defence (including “The Life Institute”(previously Mother & Campaign – an outgrowth of Youth Defense) and Belfast Based "Precious Life". Approximately 2,000 people seem to have attended. The pro-choice counter demonstration, organised at short notice was still attended by around 300 people. Many attending the anti-abortion rally came from all over Ireland and even included a small group of migrants from the Philippines. There were some tense exchanges between pro-choice campaigners and anti-abortion marchers.
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Despite spending in the region of a million euro and getting the backing of the catholic church its now clear that the anti-choice extremists of Youth Defence & the Pro Life Campaign were resoundingly defeated when the Dail finally voted though legislation implementing the X-Case judgment of 21 years ago. This time last year they were confident that they already had enough Fine Gael TD's on board to block the required legislation but they reckoned against the wave of public anger that followed the death of Savita Halappanavar after she was denied a potentially life saving abortion in a Galway hospital.
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Last Thursday the European Court of Human Rights found that the Irish government had violated the rights of a woman living in Ireland who was forced to travel to Britain for an abortion. Abortion continues to be unavailable in Ireland and the court ruling was based on the failure of Irish governments to legislate for abortion under the 'X case' an infamous case from 1992 when a 14 year old rape victim X was prevented leaving the country to get an abortion in England. The WSM was centrally involved in the mobilizations that forced the courts to back down and allow X to travel and has continued to be involved in the pro-choice movement since that time. Below is the coverage we provided on Thursday on WSM.IE as the ABC result was revealed.
How free can you be if you can’t even control your own body? Sep 23 0 comments
Last year, in Ireland, a pregnant woman carrying a foetus which could not survive was brought before the Irish courts. The state insisted that she carry it to term. That is what Ireland’s anti-abortion law meant for Miss “D”, a 17 year old in the care of the Health Services Executive. She was four months pregnant when her foetus was diagnosed with anencephaly. The outlook for individuals with this is extremely poor; stillbirth or death a few hours after birth. As the Choice Ireland group said at the time “No woman should have to endure the trauma of carrying to full term a child who will not live more than a few hours. By preventing “Miss D” from travelling to Britain for an abortion the Irish government are defining women as uterine incubators rather than individuals entitled to basic human rights”. This article examines how such of tragic state of affairs came to pass. It documents the struggle in Ireland for abortion rights, highlighting the role anarchists played in fighting for a womens right to choose.
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