The Aurora, the floating abortion clinic which sailed into Dublin docks on Thursday, did not have permission from the Dutch authorities to carry out abortions, it emerged yesterday. The 450-ton fishing boat, chartered by the feminist action group Women on Waves, had been converted into an abortion clinic capable of carrying out 20 operations a day. The group said they planned to take women on board and sail out into international waters to perform the terminations. But Women on Waves spokesperson, Cathleen O'Neill, admitted to the BBC that they did not have the necessary licence to carry out surgical procedures. She said that the trip had been planned as a protest at Ireland's strict abortion laws. She added that staff still intended to counsel Irish women by phone. John Smyth, of the Pro-life Campaign, an umbrella group that represents several anti-abortion groups in Ireland, said: "With all the fuss they've courted, you couldn't exactly say they are looking after the welfare of the vulnerable women they are trying to reach." A small boat, launched by one pro-life group followed the Aurora yesterday, but there were few other demonstrators. Originally the Aurora announced plans to sail on to Cork. A spokesman said they would probably head back to Holland next week. The events have been met with a hostile reaction from many journalists who flew into Ireland from around the world to cover the story. Many felt they had been duped by a PR stunt.
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