Pro-life campaigners set for more rallies in run-up to October 21

Thousands of people took part in the March For Their Lives rally in Belfast city centre organised by Precious Life. Picture Bill Smyth
Thousands of people took part in the March For Their Lives rally in Belfast city centre organised by Precious Life. Picture Bill Smyth
Share this article

The leader of an organisation behind the massive pro-life rally in Belfast at the weekend has said further demonstrations will take place during the lead-up to October 21.

In July, MPs passed the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act, which contained a provision placing a duty on the government to regulate to provide for access to abortion in Northern Ireland.

It comes into effect if the Stormont Executive is not restored by October 21, with regulations required to be in place by the end of March.

Thousands of people on both sides of the abortion debate took to the streets of Belfast on Saturday.

The pro-life March for their Lives was held in Belfast city centre on Saturday to protest the Westminster government’s move to change abortion law here, while the Rally for Choice gathered at Writer’s Square in support of liberalised laws.

Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life, one of the organisations behind the March for their Lives demonstration, said further marches and protests will be held during the lead up to October 21.

“The people were rallied on Saturday to lobby and try to force the DUP and Sinn Fein back into office, specifically because of this issue. I think Nuala O’Loan made that point very well.

“There are going to be a number of demonstrations now right up to the 31st of October.”

Baroness O’Loan, a former police ombudsman, spoke at the anti-abortion rally, where she laid blame for the imposition of new abortion legislation on Northern Ireland’s “absentee” politicians, decrying the lack of an executive sitting at Stormont to represent the public.

She has previously said that the Westminster vote was a “denial of democracy”.

Bernadette Smyth continued: “There was gridlock in Belfast — the city basically came to a standstill because of the large numbers of people saying, very clearly, this is not in our name.

“The very clear message we want Stormont to know, we want Westminster to know an we want the world to know is that the people of Northern Ireland do not want to see abortion forced onto us.

“That was reflected by the number of people who turned out.”

She added: “More than 20,000 people, from every tradition, attended the March because people are outraged that Westminster has hijacked our democratic process and has sought to impose abortion on Northern Ireland right up to 7 months and in certain circumstances, right up to birth.”

She said Precious Life would continue to “take legal advice” regarding the new laws.

“We are really at the mercy of these two parties — the DUP and Sinn Fein — being willing to get back together so that the Northern Ireland Assembly can take control.

“I still believe this is in breach of the Good Friday Agreement, which was about devolution. I can’t understand how Westminster is able to force this onto Northern Ireland. We are still taking legal advice on that and we are willing to take this to the highest court to challenge this.”