Photographer explains how he captured viral photo that came to symbolise the Irish abortion referendum

Narjas Zatat@Narjas_Zatat
Monday 28 May 2018 08:45
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Picture:(Alastair Moore )

Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to celebrate what has become an extraordinary time in Ireland's history.

The people have spoken unequivocally to scrap the constitution’s eighth amendment, which put the life of an unborn child on the same level as the mother, therein making it almost impossible to have an abortion.

Amidst the celebrations, one particular photo has become a symbol for the fundamental shift in the country’s constitution.

Shared thousands of times across social media platforms, the shot is from a pro-choice protest at the Irish embassy in London in 2016.

Picture: Alastair Moore(Alastair Moore)

Now given a new lease on life, the photo comes full circle – from the tireless marches and protests and campaigns, to the final referendum result.

indy100 tracked down Alastair Moore, the photographer, and Hannah Little, featured front and centre in the photograph.

We asked Moore: was it a spur-of-the-moment picture?

"I brought my camera to the protest at the Irish embassy in London by chance. The crowd grew quickly at the meeting spot and the organisers lined all the women up double file with their luggage to represent the Irish women who have to travel to the UK for abortions.

They set off on a march around the block, passing the embassy. When they started moving, the sound of the luggage wheels on the footpath was deafening. It was incredibly impactful - it had this feeling of a growing momentum and anger at injustice, but it was so civil.

They did one lap of the block and I realised I had to catch a shot of them coming around the corner.

"It wasn't until I got home that I realised that every single woman had the same determined look on their face. A really powerful scene to witness."

What do you think about the referendum results?

Seeing female friends and family crying with relief and joy as the results came in - finally feeling like this is an Ireland that trusts women - was an incredibly touching experience. I've never seen anything like it. It feels like a new Ireland, a fairer one, and one to be proud of.

How do you feel now it's gone viral and has come to represent the historic day for so many?

"Delighted but it's all them - the London Irish ARC. I've never been so blown away by a group of people's determination to create change.

I'm just glad I decided to bring my camera along and got to witness the start of a movement.

(Alastair Moore)

Twenty-eight-year-old Hannah Little - who co-founded the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign - tirelessly campaigned for the referendum.

This is despite being unable to vote because she has lived in London for over five years, as Irish people lose their vote after just 18 months living out of the country.

She is the woman wearing the orange jumper in the photo, and she’s ‘deeply relieved’ by the referendum’s results. She told indy100:

An amendment which restricted women's healthcare never should have entered our constitution and yesterday, after a 35 year campaign, the Irish people voted emphatically to remove it. I am proud to say that two-thirds of the Irish public support a woman's right to choice.

We asked Little: What’s next for Ireland?

Most immediately it's the swift introduction legislation enabling women to access safe and legal abortions in Ireland. Until the new legalisation takes affect, nine women a day will be forced to travel from Ireland to Britain to access terminations and 2-3 women will take abortion pills bought online, risking up to 14 years in prison.

As we saw with our home to vote campaign, hundreds, if not thousands, of vote-eligible Irish travelled home to have their say in this historic referendum. Ireland has one of the shortest voting eligibility periods in Europe meaning Irish citizens lose their vote after 18 months out of the country.

"We believe the time has come for Ireland to reform the electoral system and allow Irish citizens abroad to have their voices heard.

"The campaign for abortion access will continue in Northern Ireland until full reproductive rights are afforded to citizens both north and south of the border.

"Yesterday's overwhelmingly positive result can only mean a bright future for women in Ireland."

And how do you feel about being part of what is being called a historic photograph?

"Several hundred London-Irish gathered outside the Irish Embassy to demand a repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

It felt particularly poignant to be gathering in Britain the destination for 11 women a day travelling from Ireland and Northern Ireland to access healthcare they are denied at home.

In solidarity with these exiled women, I lead a group of 77 women marching silently with suitcase to represent the number of Irish and Northern Irish women forced to travel for abortion access every week.

"Our group, the London-Irish Abortion Rights Campaign, was formed in the wake of this protest. Within 24-hours over 300 people had signed up to attend our open meeting.

"This just displays level of engagement the Irish diaspora has had in this referendum campaign."

More: The 17 best reactions to Ireland overturning its abortion ban

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