Shock horror, political opponents collaborate

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People from across Derry and Donegal attended a public meeting last night in the City Hotel, co-hosted by three Irish pro-life groups.

Both Lives Matter” come mainly from the protestant/unionist tradition and are based in Belfast, Life NI is an advocacy and support group for women in crisis pregnancies, and “Cherish All the Children Equally”, is a progressive republican organisation, founded to give pro-life people from that constituency a voice.

The upcoming referendum to delete the constitutional protection for the preborn child from the Irish constitution is obviously of great concern for the pro-life majority in the north. If the law and culture in the 26 counties changes, it will be very difficult to maintain our current legal protections for mothers and their babies, which are very different from those in Britain.

All three groupings are united in seeking to introduce respect for the life of the preborn child into the current debate, an aspect which is largely ignored by those advocating for what will be essentially abortion on demand. The speakers all rejected the dangerous proposal that women’s freedom will be achieved by pitching her against her child, and offered an alternative analysis, which provides better choices for women, families and society.

Dawn Mc Evoy (BTM) spoke of the advocacy and political lobbying which their group undertakes, and discussed how current laws and employment practices make pregnancy and motherhood so difficult for many women. She described the groups legal vindication in their assertion that one hundred thousand lives have been saved in the north since the enactment of abortion in England, and even tried out her Gaeilge, proclaiming that Belfast Unionists are proud to say “Céad Míle Fáilte” to those members of our families and community who otherwise would not be here.

Marion Woods (LifeNI) spoke of the practical support which her organisation offers to women in crisis pregnancies, including counselling, financial support, housing provision and post-abortion care.

David Smyth (BLM) outlined the current legal and constitutional framework which operates in both Irish states, and gave his legal perspective on recent court rulings and the repercussions which might arise from imposition of direct rule.

L to R, David Smyth and Dawn Mc Evoy, Both Lives Matter, Marion Woods, Life NI, Anne Mc Closkey and Anne Bolly, Cherish all the Children Equally.

Anne Brolly, who with her husband Francie recently left Sinn Féin over their refusal to grant a conscience vote for their members, spoke of the historic republican ideal, which offers respect and equality to all people and traditions, and contrasted that to the strident insistence that abortion is a requirement for freedom which currently prevails in political republicanism and in the left generally.

Dr Anne Mc Closkey gave a medical outline of the reasons why abortion not only kills babies, but harms women, and reiterated the current position that on both sides of the border, the protection of the mother’s life is always paramount in medical decision-making. She described with practical examples how care and support for women in crisis provides better outcomes, and related her recent experience of supporting a local family whose baby had a life-limiting illness, and the positive outcomes which can be had for all concerned.

There was an informal discussion after the presentations, and in the lobby after. I left at midnight. Many left the venue resolving to join the Life Canvass in the border counties, to protect our laws into the future. The coming month and the referendum will shape Irish culture and laws for generations to come.

This collaborative venture between people of very different political perspectives confirms that the belief in the right to life of all members of the human family can unite us. Without the right to life, all other rights are meaningless, and all politics superfluous.

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Padraig

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Pádraig is an educator and republican activist based in County Wexford.
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