Most would agree that this college year got off to an intense start, between the chaos of Freshers’ Week and a certain handbook we all know too well. Anger, disappointment and betrayal have driven the UCD student body to call for the SU president’s impeachment. Meanwhile, the Taoiseach announced a long-awaited referendum on the eighth amendment in 2018. These events were circling our minds as we woke on the morning of the 30th of September, for the 6th annual March for Choice.
UCD For Choice, UCDSU, and various UCD students joined the masses on the grounds of Trinity College, and momentum started to build up as we waited to march. The TCD president, Kevin Keane addressed the crowd, stressing how important the march was and how much students nationwide have accomplished. Keane acknowledged that although he’ll never have to make the decision himself, ending a pregnancy is already such a difficult choice that we shouldn’t make it any harder for women than it has to be.
USI President, Michael Kerrigan then spoke of a case he had seen in which a girl failed her college year to travel abroad for an abortion, as well as being disowned by her own family due to the stigma that accompanies this decision. This is the reality we live in today, a reality we need to fix soon. Kerrigan dedicated the march for the 12 women that travelled that day, for the women before that and for the women that will have to after. USI vice president for Equality, Síona Cahill then led the crowd in chants of “1,2,3,4 – we won’t take it anymore; 5,6,7,8 – It’s time we repeal the eight,” loud enough for all corners of TCD to hear.
Assembling at the Garden of Remembrance, we started marching, with one location in mind: we were going to the Dáil. More and more joined us on the march, from political parties to former college students and families: ROSA estimated that our numbers passed 50,000. Civilians from the side-lines cheered us on and we cheered them back. Tourists encouraged us from the open tour guide buses. People were shouting support at us from balconies and rooftops, showing solidarity.
One wholesome moment described by a first year from IADT Emily O’Farrell was ‘when the marchers passed an Anti-ISIS protest at the spire, by Muslims who wanted to spread the word of peace. We applauded one another.’ Whilst they protested for peace and victims of conflict, we protested for peace for our 12 women a day, and the victims we’ve made of them. Aleksandra Milenovic, 1st year Art IADT student commented, “If the Labour Party, the Social Democrats, Sinn Fein, Communist Parties and more can put aside their differences for one mutual cause; it honestly really highlights how important of an issue it is.”
Milenovic also said, “There was a small group of pro-lifers there, maybe 10 people or so who protested against us and all I could see was this sign that stood out to me: If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one. We were in the masses, just fighting for you to have the choice to or to not, it’s that simple.”
In the UCD part of the protest, we held our banner and placards with pride, and the megaphone was passed around continuously. Chants were led by representatives of UCD For Choice and UCDSU, which the students answered with passionate roars. As well as the usual chants, we had a bit of fun with the crowd, adding Repeal the eigth lyrics to the disco classic “Give It Up.” As serious as we are about the issue, we are also students, and dancing is never a crime.
Everyone who marched with UCD was involved, and no one left behind or silenced. There were mentions of “the Ascough fiasco” as the march reached the Dáil, but we recognised that there were bigger fish to fry, like the state that won’t allow us our fundamental rights. If our president won’t represent us, then we’ll do it ourselves. We chanted to show our presence in the march: “Who are, who are, who are we? We are, we are UCD.”
Holding our banners high and our heads higher, we’re committed to the challenge of repealing the 8th. I’d say it’s about time, but the truth is it’s way overdue, like the assignments of an overactive society member. Just like those assignments, it needs to be done, but something always comes up to defer it that much longer. The difference is that with the referendum fast approaching, we won’t wait any longer. We’re repealing and it’s happening right now.
If we were to ignore every other protest and factor pushing for repeal, this march alone has at least proven that the students want it, the Irish public wants it, the DIT banana man with the cart of tunes definitely wants it. Thank you for keeping the protest lit.
The main thing to point out is where we go from here. Rita Harrold, a spokesperson for ROSA, said, “Today’s massive protest shows the huge potential for a campaign to win abortion rights. It’s a message to the Oireachtas committee who are meeting until December that we won’t accept less than what the Citizens’ Assembly recommended.”
“What are we feeling?” “Repealing.”