‘I’m sorry- I’m just so fucking pissed off.’ These were the words of an emotional speaker at the candlelit vigil held on Kildare street last night. I arrived at the last minute to witness what turned out to be a massive spontaneous gathering- Nearly 2000 people united in anger. I walked up nassau street and soon encountered a group of banner holders, being led along the street by a Garda outrider. Traffic had not been diverted and so a 46A was left abandoned beside the National Library, it’s lights switched off. The Garda outrider told us he was going to lead us around to Merrion Square because ‘there’s another protest on outside Kildare street, and I don’t want there to be trouble.’ Someone holding a banner asked ‘Is it because we’re pro choice and they’re pro life?’ Confusion erupted. the Garda didn’t know who was at Kildare street and was plainly attempting to avoid any sort of riot. A girl called her friends to ask where they were and proclaimed ‘Lads, they’re up here!’ and so we marched up Kildare street.
The Garda outrider was worried about violence, but this was the most quiet crowd I’d ever squeezed through- the kind of quiet, dignified outrage you only see once in a generation. The joyful, bright atmosphere of the march for Choice last month was well gone- this was silent, unending fury. People were holding candles- I happened upon a friend of mine who spoke of how shocking the case was, and I expressed my surprise at the turnout on such short notice. At a glance, there were more people here at this spur of the moment event than were at the March for choice. The shock at Wednesday’s news had brought people to their feet.
People stood on and listened as Clare Daly, Sinead Kennedy and others spoke but what was most striking were the moments of quiet that were only punctuated by cheers during speeches. When Sinead kennedy called for a sit in and for silence, a crowd of 2000 people sat in the middle of a main road and were silent. The only people left standing were press photographers and increasingly alarmed Gardai. 2000 people sat in silence. I will never forget it. I will never forget that silence, the kind you only experience when you are surrounded by two thousand people and nobody is speaking. I’ll never forget the candles and the deep, deep anger I could see in every face. Nobody was weeping or screaming but the scab had been cracked on this open wound in Irish society.
It’s not just Ireland that is reacting to this story. The Young Turks, Fox News, The Huffington Post, Reddit, The Guardian; Sky news was leading with the story of a young woman denied vital medical attention at a Galway hospital for a period yesterday. We’ve been called Medieval but this is a sadly modern form of cruelty. Before 1821 in fact the Catholic church allowed abortion up until ‘Quickening’- when the foetus’ movement was visible. The pro life movement has grown since the advent of sonography and ultrasound gave us more and more detailed images of the foetus developing. We can’t just call this an ancient problem. This is a legal and moral debate taken solely from our modern world.
The microphone was offered to anyone who wanted to speak- A young woman named Elle gave the quote that begins this column, after her voice cracked and she lost her breath. She called, as everyone else speaking did, on the people of Ireland to return on Saturday to another vigil at the Garden of remembrance. The meeting was dispersed quickly and traffic began to move along Kildare street again as if nothing had happened. The empty thin metal tins of spent tea lights littered the ground, and lit candles lined the railings of Leinster House.
Niamh ‘Just fucking legislate already’ Keoghan