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Vigil at Dáil to mark nine years since death of Savita Halappanavar

The crowd was told that people across the country on Thursday evening were remembering Ms Halappanavar.

2.15153003 Source: PA

A CROWD GATHERED outside the Dáil yesterday evening to mark nine years since the death of Savita Halappanavar.

Ms Halappanavar was a 31-year-old Indian dentist who died in a Galway hospital after doctors refused to perform an abortion as she miscarried.

Her death in 2012 was one of the catalysts for abortion reform in Ireland.

At the gates of the Dáil in Dublin city centre, a crowd was told that people across the country on Thursday evening were remembering Ms Halappanavar.

Candles were lit as a banner was unfurled that stressed that there should be no religious involvement in Ireland’s new national maternity hospital.

The planned relocation of the hospital from Dublin’s Holles Street to a site at Elm Park alongside St Vincent’s Hospital has been mired in controversy over governance and ownership.

2.36717846 Candles and flowers are placed in front of a mural of Savita Halappanavar in Dublin after Ireland voted to repeal the 8th Amendment of the Irish Constitution. Source: Niall Carson/PA

Ailbhe Smyth, one of the leaders of the campaign that successfully led to the liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion law in 2018, spoke at the vigil.

“It is really important that we keep on saying what we said then, when the crowd’s poured out onto the streets all over Ireland, to express their sadness and also their anger that this could happen to any woman in Ireland, in 2012. What we said then was ‘never again’.”

“And indeed, over the past nine years, we have made many changes, not least of which was the repeal of the eighth amendment.”

“We still have much more to do, we know that.”

“But is is really unthinkable, it is quite extraordinary that we find ourselves in 2021, after all that has happened, facing the possibility of a new national maternity hospital being built at a cost to the public purse of 800 million euros to find it is proposed to build this hospital ion the site of a Catholic-controlled and Catholic-owned hospital group.

The Irish electorate voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment in a 2018 referendum, ushering in a major liberalisation of Ireland’s abortion law and ending what was effectively a constitutional ban on abortion.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was among several politicians who attended the vigil on Thursday evening.

She told PA news agency: “I had to pinch myself when I realised that it is actually nine years since Savita Halappanavar died. It only seems like yesterday. The memories of that are all still very vivid.”

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She defended her party’s policy on abortion services, amid criticism by pro-choice advocates after the party abstained at a Stormont committee vote on a DUP-backed amendment that would restrict abortion in the case of non-fatal foetal abnormalities.

“We made clear and consistently clear that what we want is the same services available to women here in the 26 counties and the counties of Louth and all along the border to be reflected in the six counties,” Ms McDonald said.

“The health minister in the Executive needs to commission the abortion services. They refuse to do so. They have failed to do so.”

“Since that’s happening in the North, the onus is now on the British Government, the government currently with jurisdiction in the north of Ireland, to move the legislation and that needs to happen.”

“Any noise of the fringes of this misses the point.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd-Barrett and Labour’s Senator Annie Hoey were among the other politicians who attended the vigil.

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