Strong support for abortion laws reform at Belfast suffrage parade

A reinvigorated campaign to reform abortion laws in Northern Ireland featured prominently in the Belfast parade to mark women's suffrage in the UK.

A sizeable number of the estimated 5,000 participants used the Processions 2018 event to voice support for a change in laws in the region.

Many of those were Yes campaigners from the Irish Republic, who have turned their focus north of the border after last month's historic referendum to repeal the Irish state's restrictive constitutional position on abortion.

A woman calling for abortion reform
A woman calling for abortion reform

The issue continues to polarise opinion in Northern Ireland, with strongly held views on both sides.

The pro-choice campaign was most in evidence in Belfast city centre on Sunday, as advocates linked the commemoration of 100 years since women got the vote with their modern day drive for an end to the near-blanket ban on abortion in Northern Ireland.

The debate has intensified since the outcome of the referendum in Ireland, with the Government resisting renewed calls to step in and legislate in the continuing absence of a powersharing government in Belfast.

A woman wearing a hat critical of the DUP
A woman wearing a hat critical of the DUP

Jessy Ni Cheallaigh, from Galway, said she and fellow campaigners had travelled to Belfast to support pro-choice "comrades" who had backed the repeal movement in the Irish Republic

"It's time for us to return the favour," she said.

"Two weeks ago down south we won abortion rights for women, pregnant people - it was a historic victory," she said.

"It was an absolute landslide victory, the likes of which have never been seen and we just realise now that obviously the next step is to get abortion rights up here as well."

Procession artwork march
Procession artwork march

Taryn Trainor, regional equalities officer for the Unite trade union, said she was struck by the number of young women who took part in Sunday's parade, which weaved from the Titanic Quarter to City Hall.

"It's been a fabulous turnout - it's been a great day," she said.

"There's a lot of younger women here especially, and it's very enlightening and very heartening to see that.

"It's great to see the women coming down from the Yes campaign in the Republic of Ireland - they were an absolutely tremendous campaign group and they got a very good outcome in the Republic.

"It would be great to see that followed through in Northern Ireland.

"It's one of the main equality rights that women are fighting for today in Ireland."

The Processions 2018 events took place in Belfast, London, Edinburgh and Cardiff on Sunday. They were dubbed a living artwork, with the women dressing in the colours of the suffragette movement - green, white and purple.