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Derry Girls actors march on Westminster for NI abortion rights

Nicola Coughlan and Siobhan McSweeney joined women MPs to deliver an Amnesty petition supporting the decriminalisation of abortion to the Northern Ireland office

Derry Girls and Big Issue cover stars Siobhan McSweeney and Nicola Coughlan marched on Westminster today to demand abortion rights for Northern Ireland.

The actors, from the Republic of Ireland themselves, joined women MPs to form a group of 28 who made their way across Westminster Bridge to the Northern Ireland office – representing the people forced to travel from Northern Ireland to England and Wales each week for an abortion.

McSweeney said: “I’m marching my suitcase to parliament for my sisters’ in Northern Ireland right to an abortion.

“Politicians and legislators are not doing their job, frankly. It’s a sorry state of affairs when somebody off the telly has to come and tell people to do their job.”

Each protester in the Amnesty International-led demonstration carried the names of 62,000 people who backed the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. Amnesty figures show that 65 per cent of adults there support the cause.

Currently, people can only get abortions in Northern Ireland if childbirth could put their life or wellbeing seriously at risk.

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Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin, joined demonstrators carrying “Abortion is not a crime – #NowForNI” placards. She recently tweeted: “I’ve known so many women who’ve suffered because of these Draconian laws.”

At the event, she added that “The government should be dealing with this. People keep acting like Northern Ireland is somebody else’s problem.

“The people in the Republic of Ireland have access to this type of healthcare now. The rest of the UK have access to this kind of healthcare now. Why is nobody dealing with this?

“We’re just trying to draw attention to this issue and how archaic and ridiculous it is that nobody’s dealing with this.”

The politicians marching included Labour MP for Kingston Upon Hull North Diana Johnson, Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP Christine Jardine and former Tory MP Heidi Allen, who recently defected to the Independent Group.

A group of counter-protesters assembled nearby.

More than 900 women travelled from Northern Ireland to England for abortions in 2017-18.

The Derry Girls cast previously spoke to The Big Issue about using their platforms for good, the causes that mean the most to them and more – read the full interview in this week’s magazine.

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