The stars of Channel 4’s Derry Girls joined protesters in London on Tuesday demanding the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin in the comedy drama about The Troubles, and Siobhan McSweeney, who stars as Sister Michael, were among the women who marched over Westminster Bridge to deliver a petition to parliament asking to repeal the country’s abortion ban.
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Siobhan and Nicola from Derry Girls lead the Northern Ireland abortion rights march over Westminster Bridge. They are delivering a petition to parliament with 32,000 signatures asking to repeal NI’s abortion ban. pic.twitter.com/WZEHxY1QKq
— Laura Silver (@laurafleur) February 26, 2019
The actresses were two of 28 people on the march, symbolising the average number of women who travel from Northern Ireland to mainland Britain every week to have abortions.
Protesters were wheeling suitcases bearing luggage tags which read “Now for Northern Ireland”.
“We want to be here to stand up for those women who have to make those journeys so they don’t have to be here. It’s unfair that they are treated like criminals,” said Coughlan.
“People are treating it like it’s not their problem, but it’s somebody’s problem,” she told Sky News.
“People in Ireland and the UK, we now have that access and it’s unfair that people in Northern Ireland don’t.”
McSweeney added: “It’s not a moral issue, it’s a human rights issue – we are looking for choice.
“Listen to the people of Northern Ireland – the data shows over 65% wish this law to be changed.
“It’s archaic. People’s stories are horrific, what they have endured under this law. I would ask [Northern Ireland Secretary] Karen Bradley and [Prime Minister] Theresa May to listen to those people they represent.”
Currently, abortion is only legal in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or if serious danger to her mental or physical health can be proved, whereas in England, Scotland and Wales, a woman can terminate her pregnancy before 24 weeks, or after that point in certain circumstances if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.
Since the change in law in the Republic of Ireland in 2018 following the referendum, abortion services there can be provided up to 12 weeks of pregnancy, where there is a risk of fatal foetal abnormality or the risk to the life or health of the pregnant woman.