As the jubilant party-goers wandered away from Dublin Castle in the early hours of their new dawn, the true agenda of the Repeal the 8th campaign began to assert itself. Within moments of Ireland’s vote to remove from the constitution the right to life of the unborn, abortion campaigners levelled threats at the North. Marie Stopes expressed interest in opening clinics in Ireland – despite the Yes campaign’s promise that abortion would remain GP-led. And the talk of euthanasia began.
Despite near-total support for abortion in the mainstream press and the aid of big business, from Google to Soros, Yes campaigners still had to do battle with a small band of pro-life campaigners in a series of live television debates. They emerged bruised and resentful, and accused broadcasters of treating them unfairly.
When pro-lifers in Britain watched the debate on RTÉ, moderated by Claire Byrne, they were shocked to witness a discussion of abortion that gave due consideration to both sides. We are so used to seeing debates in which a single pro-life voice must fight to be heard against a panel of opponents whose hostility is shared by both the host and broadcaster. With the RTÉ debate, at last, we saw how convincing pro-life arguments are when they are given a chance to be heard.
But that brief moment of parity has gone now. Ireland’s Yes campaigners are ensuring that they never again have to suffer the discomfort of pro-life arguments. Both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil have banned party members from conscience votes or tabling any amendments to the new abortion legislation except through the party health spokesman. Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald, a vociferous Repeal advocate, has threatened to banish the party’s two remaining pro-life TDs. And in social media and mainstream news outlets, there have been calls for No campaigners to be denied any further public voice.
One of those campaigners is Maria Steen, the barrister and Catholic mother whose searing articulacy in the Claire Byrne debate so rattled her opponents that she was denied any further appearance on RTÉ. She is appalled to see her country democratically voting a human right out of its constitution.
“Modern society prefers choice to everything, even justice,” she reflects. “But what is modern, what is progressive, about killing the child in the womb?”
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