An anti-abortion march in Dublin has attracted as many as 50,000 people ahead of this week’s controversial vote in the Irish parliament.

Media reports estimate the attendance at between 35,000 and 50,000 at the anti-abortion Rally for Life which marched from O’Connell Street at 2pm to the parliament on Saturday.

Organisers of the march had claimed up to 80,000 people participated but a police spokeswoman put the number at 35,000.

The Irish Times
reports that the rally was held five days before the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is expected to be passed in the Dáil (parliament).

The protest march was attended by a group of approximately 30 people from the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the U.S.

Parts of the route saw protesters walk by pro-choice demonstrators.

The crowd were addressed by a number of speakers including Libertas party founder Declan Ganley and Niamh Ui Bhriain of the Life Institute.

Ganley used the march to repeat his calls for a referendum on the legislation.

He said: “Let those senators and TDs (deputies) use the power granted to them under Article 27 of the Constitution to let the people speak on this bill. Give us a referendum and let us vote.”

Cora Sherlock, deputy chair of the Pro-Life Campaign, told reporters that those attending the march were highly motivated.

She said: “The atmosphere is fantastic. Looking around at the people here I can see how motivated and driven they are and no matter what happens at the next vote, these people will not go away.

“There are people here from all over Ireland and there’s a great cross-section of society. I hope TDs (deputies) take note of the crowd here today.”

Catholic Church leaders again spoke out against the legislation over the weekend.

Dublin Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said the Christian message is one which respects life and respects every human life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

In a homily delivered during Mass in Church of St Dominick, the Archbishop said: “It respects the life of the unborn; it cherishes and wishes to protect the lives of mothers and mothers to be.

“Being Pro-Life is not about a slogan or a mantra. It is about being someone who searches for the foundations of the deepest meaning of life and the roots of hope.”

Anti-abortion protesters walk through Dublin in an anti-abortion protest on July 6, 2013.