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20th Sep 2017

Wow! The incredible moment 25 handmaidens marched on the Dáil

'It represents how I feel about this referendum- silenced and disposable.'

Taryn de Vere

This afternoon, around 25 women dressed as handmaidens like those from The Handmaid’s Tale marched on the Dáil to protest what they believe is an attempt by the Government to “water down the recommendations” of the Citizens Assembly.

The event description, hosted by ROSA, stated:

“Now it is left in the hands of 21 politicians, only a handful of whom are pro-choice, to decide what legislation we will get.

“We need to put them under such pressure they cannot but recommend pro-choice legislation — along the lines of the Citizens Assembly, nothing less.”

Reverend Karen Dempsey was one of the handmaidens at the protest.

“I was in attendance today because the symbolism of this demonstration really spoke to me.

“The silence, and the uniformity of all the handmaids is scary, and it’s very representative of how I feel about the 8th Amendment. It’s so broad and vague, none of our lives matter as individuals.

“Walking up the street in pairs, silent, heads down, and completely covered, felt really scary- and very representative of how I feel about this referendum- silenced and disposable.” 

Reactions from passersby were mostly positive though Karen says one man hit her with rosary beads.

“One of the anti-choice activists stood in front of us as we passed them, and hit me on the shoulder with his rosary beads.

“I couldn’t see, I could only see his feet because of my head down and my bonnet, so I got a fright. It’s really strange to be in that position and feel the wrath of other people who don’t see me as a person.

“They know nothing about me except that I’m female, and that’s enough for them to be able to tell me what to do with my own body and how to make my own healthcare decisions.”

While not deliberately attempting to overshadow the “hunger” strike of Tim Jackson, the handmaidens formed a line in front of the Donegal Man.

Reverend Karen Dempsey relates:

“As we stood outside the gates in the rain, there was a guy running up and down, waving that ridiculous white flag on a stick. I don’t know if it was Tim himself, but it felt so disrespectful.

“The idea of a man exercising his own bodily autonomy, in protest against MY bodily autonomy, is beyond ridiculous –  especially when you consider how that young girl was force fed and forcefully dehydrated last year, because she was suicidal and pregnant.

“Who’s going to force feed Tim? Nobody, because he’s male.”

Amy Bebbington from Dublin also attended as a handmaiden today.

“The handmaids made for a powerful visual representation of how a lot of women in Ireland are feeling today. I believe that the results of the recent Citizen’s Assembly was a considered and fair reflection of the people of Ireland today.

“Our stand today, was to say to the Oireachtas Committee that we will not accept any retreat from the recommendations of the Citizen Assembly.

“We got a tremendously positive reaction today with many people stopping during their lunch break to take photos and say messages of support to us.

“I truly believe Ireland is changing for the better, and now we just need a referendum (on legislation according to the citizens assembly) to demonstrate that.”

Photo credit: Amy Bebbington