Stars of Derry Girls have joined protesters demanding the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland.
Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare Devlin on the Channel 4 comedy series, and Siobhan McSweeney, who stars as Sister Michael, were among 28 women at a march in Westminster, central London.
They symbolised the average number of women (28) who travel from Northern Ireland to mainland Britain every week to undergo an abortion.
Wheeling suitcases bearing luggage tags which read “Now for Northern Ireland”, the protesters delivered a 62,000-strong petition to the government calling for abortion rights to be extended in Northern Ireland.
Coughlan told Sky News: “We want to be here to stand up for those women who have to make those journeys so they don’t have to be here. It’s unfair that they are treated like criminals.
“People are treating it like it’s not their problem, but it’s somebody’s problem.
“People in Ireland and the UK, we now have that access and it’s unfair that people in Northern Ireland don’t.”
Abortion is still only legal in Northern Ireland if a woman’s life is at risk or if serious damage to their mental or physical health can be proved.
This compares to England, Scotland and Wales where a woman can terminate her pregnancy before 24 weeks, or after that point in certain circumstances if the mother’s life is at risk or the child would be born with a severe disability.
The debate on abortion law in Northern Ireland has been reignited after the Republic of Ireland voted to repeal its very strict laws in a referendum in May last year.
The process in Ireland is now legal, which brings to light the illegality of the procedure in Northern Ireland.
McSweeney told Sky News: “It’s not a moral issue, it’s a human rights issue – we are looking for choice.
“Listen to the people of Northern Ireland – the data shows over 65% wish this law to be changed.
“It’s archaic – people’s stories are horrific, what they have endured under this law. I would ask [Northern Ireland Secretary] Karen Bradley and [Prime Minister] Theresa May to listen to those people they represent.”
Precious Life, a campaign group which is against the extension of British-style abortion laws, criticised the involvement of the Derry Girls actors.
Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life, said: “It’s truly disgusting that these actresses are abusing their very public profile and platform to promote the killing of defenceless unborn babies.
“Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws protect women and babies from the tragedy, pain and violence of abortion. It’s clear from our activism that there is very little on the ground demand for abortion.
“These actresses need to respect devolution and the democratic will of the people of Northern Ireland.”
But Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s Northern Ireland campaign manager, said: “For too long our demands for equality have been ignored and our rights sacrificed for political expediency.
“The time for change is now. Northern Ireland cannot be left behind as the only part of the UK and Ireland with a near total ban on abortion.
“It’s 2019 – time we had laws that respect and value women’s lives.”
In response to the protest, a counter group held a rally with placards reading “protect every human” outside the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.