UK
10/07/2013 10:38 BST | Updated 09/09/2013 06:12 BST

Christians Seek Divine Intervention Over Ireland Abortion Bill

The final debate on Ireland's deeply divisive abortion legislation was greeted by the murmur of prayer at the gates of Parliament.

Devout campaigners clutched crucifixes to their chests and rosary beads in their hands, asking for divine intervention and for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to feel "a pang of conscience".

Among the 100 or so anti-abortion campaigners, Mary O'Brien from Cork claimed that the Government was on the brink of throwing out values and religious traditions.

ireland

Christians have been protesting against the bill

"It's not OK to kill a baby," she said.

"If I had a child in the morning and tore it to pieces, I would be given life in prison. Abortion is no different."

Ms O'Brien glanced to a small band of pro-choice activists and placards with the face of Savita Halappanavar - the Indian dentist who died after being denied a termination as she miscarried.

"Our ancestors are turning in their graves over what this Government is trying to do. Everything they fought for and died for will have been for nothing," she said.

Ms O'Brien was one of scores to camp at the gates of Leinster House overnight, holding a prayer vigil.

"I still have faith that Mr Kenny will have a change of heart," she said.

"Failing that, he should change his name to Pontius Pilot - for just going with the mob."

A few feet away at the front of the parliament a modest pro-choice contingent maintained an equally dignified protest.

The religious ardour was offset by their opponent protesters significantly younger, markedly secular but with just as much conviction.

They hit out at the new laws and claimed the Government was pushing "an Irish solution to an Irish problem".

Eleanor White from Dublin, aged in her 20s, said her group of campaigners - who also camped at the gates overnight - were there in support of the majority politicians prepared to vote for the contentious Protection of Life During

Pregnancy Bill and grant women the right to a termination if their life is at risk, including from suicide.

But neither Ms White or fellow protester Paul Mulrennan believe the legislation goes far enough.

Mr Mulrennan, also from Dublin, described the new laws as "an Irish solution for an Irish problem".

"The politicians are telling us we need this legislation, but they're only willing to give it half way," he said.

"It's not enough in my eyes, but it is a step in the right direction. And I hope that one day, the Irish Constitution will be completely re-drafted and we will live in an entirely secular society.

"I hope that happens before I die."

Behind them elderly women, who had slept on the street overnight, clutched small crosses tightly to their chests.

Two men from the Rosary Crusade for Ireland stood on the roadside with a banner urging politicians to "protect Ireland from the scourge of abortion".

Others twisted their rosaries intently in their fingers, hoping that God would take political sides.

Bernard Thomas, who travelled from Northern Ireland to attend the vigil, accused the Taoiseach of being a dictator hell-bent on "deathocracy".

"The greatest right is the right to life and that should apply to the unborn," Mr Thomas said.

He accused pro-choice campaigners of exploiting the death of Ms Halappanavar, who miscarried 17 weeks into her pregnancy and died in Galway last October.

"She died of septicaemia - nothing more, nothing less," Mr Thomas said.

"Ireland remains one of the safest countries in the world to have a baby, but these people are using that poor woman's death for their own gains. And that is disingenuous."

As his fellow anti-abortion campaigners launched into another decade of the rosary, the pro-choice side welcomed a round of coffees.

"It's not much, but it'll keep us going through the day. We have a long stretch ahead of us, but we're here for the long haul," said Mr Mulrennan.