Campaigners for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment to the Irish Constitution took their protest to Limerick City and County Council on Monday, 27 November. Protestors stood outside Limerick County Hall, where the full meeting of Limerick City and County Council was taking place.
The campaigners wore duct tape over their mouths to symbolise how they discussion of the Eighth Amendment had been ‘gagged’ by the Council. The Council had refused to allow a motion on to the agenda about the Citizens’ Assembly recommendations on abortion.
The protestors wore sweatshirts saying ‘Repeal’ and claimed that Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were “trying to gag pro-choice voices, and brush the issue of the Eighth Amendment under the carpet”. The two major political parties dominate the Council and have an agreement to co-operate with each other on issues like the election of mayors.
Councillor Cian Prendiville’s motion was deemed not relevant to Council business, as first reported in Limerick Life’s last edition. The decision from the Council’s Corporate Policy Group to deny Cllr Prendiville’s motion based on standing orders was met with anger by local Pro-Choice campaigners.
Cllr Prendiville has submitted a motion on abortion each November since his election to the Council in 2014 and it has always been allowed on the agenda. Though his motions have always been defeated, last year councillors opposed to the motion said that the Council should wait until the Citizens’ Assembly reported on the issue. The Assembly’s proposals are now being discussed by an Oireachtas committee.
Following the Council’s refusal to allow the motion on abortion on to the meeting’s agenda, Cllr Prendiville wrote to Mayor Stephen Keary. The mayor has the final say on the agenda but Keary, who is a member of Fine Gael, did not intervene.
“How on earth can it be argued that this issue is ‘irrelevant’ now, but was relevant last year?” Cllr Prendiville wrote in his letter to the mayor. “If anything, this issue has grown in importance. In September we saw the largest ever March for Choice with tens of thousands taking to the streets demanding the implementation of the pro-choice proposals of the Citizens’ Assembly, including hundreds from Limerick.”
“Every single week at least 2 women from Limerick travel to the UK to access abortion services they are denied in this country. Other use the completely safe, but illegal abortion pills in their homes in Limerick. While the main parties may prefer to ignore this, or feel it is divisive, how can they claim it is irrelevant? For too long this issue has been brushed under the carpet, we cannot allow that any longer.”