Question: What was my favourite aspect of the All Ireland Rally for Life?
Answer: Not having to organise it!
How refreshing it was to turn up and see posters, banners, balloons, a stage & a sound system just appear, to watch a 'rally bus' turn up by itself and to see thousands of young people filling the square without having to spend months reminding them to be there.
Bernadette Smyth director of Precious Life told me early on in the day that more than one of the speakers had cancelled due to family emergencies. I was impressed by how the organisers didn't panic but merely accepted God's Will (Oh that I would be so calm in the same situation!) but I should remember what the indomitable Irish spirit is like which has helped keep abortion out of Ireland for so long.
I often speak to pro-lifers who are completely unaware quite how different the abortion laws in Ireland are. The 1967 Abortion Act which established legal abortion in the UK has never applied to Northern Ireland. Abortion is still a criminal offence in Northern Ireland governed by section 58 & 59 of Offence Against the Person Act and section 25 of the Criminal Justice Act. The law in the Republic of Ireland permits abortion where a woman is suicidal, according to controversial legislation introduced in 2013, despite overwhelming evidence that abortion was not considered a treatment for suicidality. Interventions to save a mothers life because of medical complications were always permitted because they are not considered abortion since the intention is not to end the life of the baby.
Whilst this is clearly a blessing for unborn Irish babies (who I'm sure are all pro-life), it does mean that the more mature pro-lifers face a constant battle from different groups & organisations such as Amnesty International and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission wishing to push a culture of death onto such a beautiful pro-life land.
This was alluded to in one of the most memorable speeches of the day given by Niamh Uí Bhriain spokeswoman for The Life Institute. She took to the stage and used her time of public witness to tell Amnesty International that they could support Human Rights OR they could support abortion, one or the other. She told them to make up their minds which side they were on because the two stances were not compatable. This message was received by the crowd with the largest cheer of the day as for Irish pro-lifers Amnesty International is arch-enemy number one.
Yet despite the words against those subtlely, and not so subtlely, pushing abortion onto Ireland and despite the country being at a critical point in their pro-life battle, I was relieved that it was not a spirit of anger or worry that pervaded the atmosphere. Just as it was once said how you could tell a Christian by their love, in my own experience you can tell a 21st century pro-lifer by their joy and the All Ireland Rally for Life certainly had that joy in abundance. Despite the pouring rain I saw nothing but smiling faces the whole afternoon.
It was also encouraging to see how many other people had travelled from England, Wales and Scotland to support their Irish brothers and sisters. This seems only fair since when an Irish mother is determined to have an abortion and is willing to travel and pay for it if necessary, it is our nation that is aborting the Irish babies.
I was honoured to be asked to say a few words to the crowd so I reminded them that whilst figures for UK abortions have increased according to 2015 statistics, the numbers of non-residents (eg the Irish) obtaining abortions in the UK have decreased . . .dramatically. . . to the lowest level since 1969. So one of my reasons for speaking to the Rally was to say thank you.
I wanted to thank the Irish for setting us such a great example, for not growing weary in this relentless battle, for the young people who are not afraid to witness to their peers, for coming out in public to face the culture of death head on and for the courage to speak up against nations and organisations which might seem so much bigger than they are because in my eyes, the Irish pro-lifers are bigger than all of them!
To find out more about the work that Precious Life and Youth Defence do follow the links: