Thousands march in Dublin against Irish abortion laws

Protesters hold up placards as they take part in the March for Choice, calling for the legalising of abortion in Ireland after the referendum announcement, in Dublin on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated 01 October 2017
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Thousands march in Dublin against Irish abortion laws

DUBLIN: Thousands of demonstrators marched in Dublin on Saturday in favor of liberalising Ireland’s tight abortion laws ahead of a planned referendum on the fiercely-debated issue.
Protesters chanted, “My body, my choice” and waved placards reading “Not the church, not the state: women should decide their fate,” as they headed through the capital toward the parliament.
Linda Kavanagh, a spokeswoman from the Abortion Rights Campaign which organized the rally, told AFP: “The message today is ‘time to act’ because we’ve waited for a long time for a change.
“We want full repeal. We can’t support exceptions and only a hundred people allowed to get access to abortion.”
Keishia Taylor, a spokeswoman for the organization ROSA (For Reproductive Rights, told AFP: “I think today is going to be a huge turnout, a turning point.”
Campaigners were expecting 30,000 to attend, but the police declined to give a crowd estimate.
Abortion has always been illegal in Ireland and in 1983 an eighth amendment was added to the constitution after a referendum, giving equal rights to the life of the unborn child and the mother.
The law was changed three decades later to allow terminations when the mother’s life is at risk, following public outrage at the death of a pregnant woman in 2012 who was refused an abortion.
In the face of mounting public pressure, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Tuesday announced plans for a referendum on the issue to be held in May or June 2018, ahead of a visit by Pope Francis in August.

Ireland is still deeply divided over the issue.
A recent poll by Ipsos/MRBI found 67 percent of respondents were opposed to abortion in general but that 76 percent were in favor of legalizing it cases of rape.
Varadkar, who trained as a doctor, has called the current laws “too restrictive.”
Varadkar has said he would support abortion in cases of fatal foetal abnormalities but is not supporting wider liberalization.
Thousands of Irish women currently travel abroad for abortions every year, mainly to England.
A “March for Choice” took place in London outside the Irish embassy on Saturday.
The upcoming vote has rallied those on both sides of the debate, including activists seeking to keep the current legislation in place.
In central Dublin, a small number of activists opposed to abortion handed out leaflets on Saturday, something they intend to do every week from now on.
“The country is very polarized at the moment, so what we try to do now is to reach people on the fence, who haven’t made up their minds yet,” said organizer Alan Keena.

The Irish government has already sought to gauge public opinion, setting up a Citizens’ Assembly which between November and April debated the eighth amendment.
Summing up their discussions, a majority of the 99 members recommended legalizing abortion in a wide range of circumstances.
A parliamentary committee has also been examining the abortion law, but on both sides of the debate there is mistrust of officials’ approach.
“The wording of the referendum will have a large bearing on the outcome and my instinct is that there will be compromise, there has to be, because there are 22 people from all sides on that committee,” said Anna McKenna, 66, a retired teacher on Saturday’s march.
Although the pro-abortion camp reacted positively to the referendum announcement, there is suspicion that MPs continue to be heavily influenced by the church in the mainly Catholic country.
Unlike the referendum which saw Ireland vote in favor of same-sex marriage in May 2015, no politicians have yet taken a strong position calling for greater abortion access.
Irish media has reacted similarly, reluctant to take a bold stance on an issue which has divided Irish society.


India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Updated 22 September 2018
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India’s Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

  • Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
  • Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”

DELHI: India’s prime minister was under fire over allegations of corruption in a military jet deal with France after comments by former French President François Hollande. Hollande was quoted as saying Narendra Modi’s government had influenced the choice of a local partner.
Indian political parties have been gunning for Modi over the 2016 purchase of 36 Rafale planes from Dassault Aviation estimated to be worth $8.7 billion, saying he had overpaid for the planes and had not been transparent.
The opposition, led by Congress President Rahul Gandhi, spent the past year alleging that the deal is a scam, in which India is overpaying for jets and the government is allowing a private company — billionaire Indian businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense — to benefit instead of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
On Friday, Hollande, who cleared the intergovernmental deal when he was in office, was quoted as saying New Delhi had put pressure on Dassault to choose Reliance.
“We had no choice. We took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was reported as telling the French news service Mediapart, fueling a political storm in India.
The Indian government, however, has insisted all along that it had nothing to do with Dassault’s decision to work with Reliance Defense.
Under Indian defense procurement rules, a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip the Reliance Defense procured the contract .
“The PM personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to ...Anil Ambani,” said Mr. Gandhi in a tweet.
Gandhi further tweeted: “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a ... SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defense forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul.”
Gandhi repeated the charge in a press conference in New Delhi on Saturday.
The BJP, however, says that there is no corruption.
“The fact that two sovereign heads of States negotiated a deal means that there is no room for corruption,” said Sudesh Verma, BJP spokesperson.
Talking to Arab News Verma emphasized that “the highest integrity was maintained in the deal. Now the Congress is not talking of corruption but favoritism. Merely by saying that Reliance Defense was favored by us would not cut any ice. These are insinuations and are irresponsible.”
Political analysts say that the BJP is “losing in the perception war.”
“No matter what the indian government says that perception is that the Indian government gave the offset contract to Anil Ambani, a guy who has no history of producing defense equipment,” says Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a New Delhi based political analyst.
He added: “The halo around Modi has been severely diminished after the recent revelations. This is something which it would be very difficult to live it down now.”