St. Patriarch's Day, London

Since 2014 IMELDA’s have intervened at the annual St Patrick's Day Parade in London (or St. Patriarch’s Day as we refer to it). In this annual celebration of all things Irish, we have sought to remind the Irish Diaspora in Britain that both parts of Ireland continue to export reproductive healthcare to England on a daily basis and encourage them to challenge this. We have never sought formal permission to intervene in the parade and have unofficially opened the parade by acting as impromptu parade marshals on more than one occasion. When we first opened the parade in 2014 we were told ‘this is not the time or place to mention abortion.’ Four years later, when we again unofficially opened the parade in 2017, many of those in attendance cheered us on and shouted ‘repeal the 8th’ in support.

Opening (unofficially) St. Patriarch’s Day   
16th March 2014

In this action, with wheelie suitcases in tow, symbolic of the 12 women a day that travel from the island of Ireland to England to access abortion, we firstly asked people along the parade route if they knew where the nearest abortion clinic was, entering into dialogue with them about abortion laws across the island of Ireland. We then took to the centre of the street ahead of the main parade and unofficially opened it, ensuring that the spectators lining the street were firstly reminded that while there is much to be celebrated about being Irish, both parts of Ireland need to urgently address the inhumanity of anti-choice laws and take action to enable reproductive choice.

Halting St. Patriarch   
15th March 2015

A twelve foot puppet of St. Patrick, the first bishop of Ireland, garbed in green with his staff and mitre is rolled out annually in the London parade. In 2015 it was greeted by a fleet of IMELDA's wearing red mitres and cloaks, as if female bishops had been permitted by the Catholic Church. On halting the puppet on its way to Trafalgar Square, the IMELDA’s shouted ‘down with Patrick-archy!’ and ‘stop in the name of choice!’

Storming St. Patriarch’s Parade as 1916 female revolutionaries  
13th March 2016

In 2016, the London St. Patriarch’s parade sought to celebrate the centenary of the 1916 Rising against British Rule. We rocked up to the parade, dressed as 1916 female revolutionaries to remind those in attendance that women in Ireland still do not have full bodily autonomy. Jumping in on the parade mid-way, we weaved ourselves amongst the floats holding a large banner aloft that said ‘Still Fighting for Freedom: Abortion Rights Now.’  Symbolic of the negation of the role of revolutionary women from dominant nationalist discourses throughout the 20th Century, at one point we chased a parade van that featured a display with images of revolutionary men but without their female counterparts. As we did so we shouted ‘Where’s the women?’ Embodying the spirit of the 1916 women revolutionaries to advocate for reproductive rights was particularly apt given that alongside nationalism, many of these women championed feminism and socialism. 

Opening (unofficially) St. Patriarch’s Day 2017 with Pro-choice Poem 
19th March 2017

In 2017, we again unofficially opened the parade, resisting the attempts by the parade stewards to remove us. Instead, they halted the main parade until we had finished our procession down the centre of the parade route. Dressed in red, with gold crowns bearing the slogan ‘Repeal’ and Extend the Act,’ we delivered a pro-choice poem. The poem references the finding of the remains of babies and infants in ‘significant quantities’ buried in a septic tank on the site of the former Catholic-run Tuam Mother and Baby Home, alongside the Catholic Church’s historic trafficking of babies from these institutions to America. We also referenced the funding of anti-choice lobbies with ‘Evangelical extremist US money’, calling this out as ‘poison posed as milk and honey.’ We declared ‘No more reproductive extortion. ‘Give women across Ireland access to Abortion.’ When we asked those in attendance if they agree to ‘give us a shout’, we received very positive responses.