Approximately 320 UCD students attended the March for Choice according to UCDSU Campaigns & Communications officer Barry Murphy. Student group UCD for Choice as well as members of UCD SU joined the 40,000 strong crowd at the 6th annual March for Choice in Dublin city today, protesting Ireland’s 8th amendment. UCD for Choice met for breakfast at the Queen of Tarts in the morning and, though UCDSU is not a part of the Union of Students Ireland (USI), they joined USI student union groups meeting in the front square of Trinity College.The official march organised by the Abortion Rights Campaign began at 2pm at the Garden of Remembrance, heading down O’Connell Street, passing topical buildings such as the National Maternity Hospital, before ending outside the Dáil, where Tara Flynn invited a multitude of speakers to address the crowd.
In the midst of a campaign to impeach UCDSU’s pro-life President Katie Ascough, Campaigns and Communications officer Barry Murphy has played a large role in remaining loyal to the UCDSU pro-choice mandate. In November of last year, UCDSU voted to retain their pro-choice stance, winning 64% of the vote. Murphy also previously commented that this year’s march is adopting a much happier tone, with much brighter and appealing colours than the stark black of last year’s Strike 4 Repeal. Both Murphy and Auditor of UCD for Choice Aoife Gray are hoping that the outrage that many UCD students have expressed in response to Ascough removal of abortion information from the student handbook, can be channeled into UCD for Choice, rather than at Ascough herself.
UCD for Choice found further support in Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU). TCDSU President Kevin Keane met with UCD for Choice in the week leading up to the march and any casual competitiveness that the two college’s usually held for each other was put aside in favour of joining forces for the march.
There was a clear pro-life presence throughout the city too, with anti-abortion rallies held in response to the March for Choice focussing most specifically on the topic of rape. Though there was no quelling the energy of the pro-choice movement today, with International rallies of solidarity in 20 other places around the world and signs urging Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “Get off the fence.” With the referendum scheduled for next May or June, there is a sense that is only the beginning of an intense debate between both sides in the months before the public vote on the issue.
Muireann O’Shea – Film Editor