London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign in the St Patrick’s Day Parade, London, with MP Emily Thornberry (2017)

London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign in the St Patrick’s Day Parade, London, with MP Emily Thornberry (2017)

Darcy Shea

We’re gearing up to take part in our third St Patrick’s Day parade in London, here Darcy Shea writes about why she’s taking part.

On Sunday, I'll be joining my fellow London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaigners for this year's St Patrick's Day parade.

It's the third time we've taken part in the annual procession through London's streets, celebrating Ireland's patron saint, while highlighting one of the most important issues facing the women* of our island.

It's 52 years since the Abortion Act was passed in England, Scotland and Wales. In May of last year, Ireland voted to legalise abortion, leaving Northern Ireland as one of the only places in Europe were women cannot safely and legally access terminations.

I've decided to march in this year's St Patrick's Day parade to help raise awareness of this staggering injustice.

‘I was lucky’

It's something of huge personal importance.

In May 2015 I was in my third and final year of university when I found out I was pregnant. I was 21 with no ability to financially support a child, unable to cope mentally and most importantly: I did not want a baby.

Within a week I had an appointment at a Marie Stopes Clinic to have an abortion.

I didn’t then, nor will I ever, take for granted how lucky I was to be able to access a safe, legal and free medical procedure so quickly.

But here’s the thing - having autonomy over your body and access to basic healthcare should not be considered controversial or a privilege.

Pregnant people from Northern Ireland deserve the same respect and independence as those living elsewhere in the UK.

It should not be down to another person or government to decide whether a woman’s reason for having an abortion is good enough. Full decriminalisation is needed for each and every woman in any situation, not just in certain situations.

To stand by and do nothing while so many women continue to be deprived of a basic human right does not sit comfortably with me. It’s paramount to show support and solidarity with those in Northern Ireland.

Derry Girls

On Sunday, our group will be joined by a host of well-known faces to send a message that while we're proud members of the London-Irish community, we have not forgotten those who face the injustice of leaving their homes to access basic healthcare.

Derry Girls star Siobhan McSweeney, The Fall actress Bronagh Waugh and Labour peer Alf Dubs are among those who will join us.

The theme of this year's float is the Giant's Causeway. We'll be celebrating one of our most iconic landmarks - one that represents strength and offers a tangible link between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Our members will be carrying signs of interlocking hexagons, representing the intersectional supporters of the pro-choice community and the diversity of those who need abortion services.

We need to destroy the outrageous idea that women who have abortions are criminals.

On Sunday we will celebrate London's Irish community - and show the 28 women forced to leave Northern Ireland every week for abortion care, that they are not alone.

This year's St Patrick's Day parade starts at Piccadilly at midday on Sunday, March 17th. If you're interested in walking with the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign you can find more details here

*women, trans and non-binary  

Hannah Little