By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 July, 2015
“We must respect all life as God’s gift,” Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said in his homily at a special Mass for the protection of human life on Saturday ahead of the Rally for Life.
Over 25,000 people thronged into Molesworth Street in Dublin outside Leinster House to hear a host of speakers admonish the Government and Amnesty International on the issue of abortion.
Ahead of the rally, over 1,000 people gathered for Mass in St Saviour’s Parish, Dominic Street, Dublin which was offered by Archbishop Martin for the protection of human life in all its stages.
Speaking about the characteristics of the Good Shepherd, the Archbishop said that God knows his creatures.
“We are told that he knows them from the moment in which they are carried in the womb and he will carry his creatures even to their old age and even when they turn grey.”
He added, “We are creatures. Life is not ours to utilise just as we wish. We have to live according to God’s plan and we have to life in harmony with all God’s creatures; as have to respect all life as God’s gift.”
Elsewhere in his homily, Archbishop Martin highlighted Pope Francis’ emphasis in Laudato Si that since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion.
“How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?”
Being pro-life, Archbishop Martin said, does not mean being a member of a single-issue lobbying group but adopting a particular style of life.
He suggested that the throwaway culture which is enthralled with the possibility of limitless mastery over everything is the opposite of a pro-life culture.
“Pope Francis characterised abortion as a product of a “widespread mentality of profit, the ‘throwaway culture’ which has today enslaved the hearts and minds of so many.”
That mentality, the Archbishop warned, “calls for the elimination of human beings, above all if they are physically or social weaker” and the Pope had highlighted that Catholics’ response to that mentality is a decisive and unhesitating ‘yes’ to life.
Later on Molesworth Street, thousands of people cheered those with disabilities and their families as they heard pleas for unborn babies with a disability to receive special protection and support, and not become targets for abortion.
One of the organisers of the rally, Eoghan De Faoite, chairman of Youth Defence, warned the Government that pro-life voters would make their views heard in the ballot box at the next general election in 2016.
He noted that last week Minister Leo Varadkar had confirmed that 26 terminations were carried out under the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
The Minister claimed that the legislation was working “even after it showed that three little babies had been needlessly lost their lives when their mothers were given an abortion for suicidal ideation,” Eoghan De Faoite cahllenged.
He accused the leadership of Fine Gael of bullying members of the party in relation to the abortion legislation.
“Minister Varadkar, this Act is not working, you’re not working, Enda Kenny is not working and what we do with a Government that is not working, we take them out,” he warned to cheers from the crowd.
Eoghan De Faoite said the rally was about taking a non-negotiable message to Amnesty International and “any other outsiders who dare lecture us on abortion rights. We are not asking you today, we are not telling you, we are demanding that you get your intrusive hands off our pro-life constitution,” he said.
“How dare you condemn Ireland for doing what every respectful nation across the world should do, which is protect and cherish all human beings.”
“We have one of the highest standards of maternal care in the world and lowest rates of perinatal deaths.”
“You have forgotten Amnesty that one of the basic fundamental human rights is the right to life, without which all other rights are meaningless. Human rights begin in the womb whether Amnesty International like it or not.”
Those attending the Rally for Life, which marched from Parnell Square to the Dail, held posters supporting the ‘Every Life Matters’ theme of this year’s rally, and said that legalising abortion on disability grounds is the worst possible form of discrimination.
Mandy Dunne of the support group Every Life Counts also addressed the Rally. Her daughter Muireann was diagnosed with Trisomy 13 before birth, and doctors described her as ‘incompatible with life’ and suggested abortion to Mandy.
“I felt those words took her life from me there and then. We were told we wouldn’t find anyone who had lived with this condition, and it was suggested that I end my pregnancy. I was made feel I wasn’t carrying a beautiful little girl, that she was something that didn’t even have the right to be considered as a life, dismissed with suggestions of a termination.”
“But Muireann went on to live with us after birth for 6 weeks, and she knew nothing but love. Every child deserves to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their diagnosis. Every sick child deserves extra protection and extra love,” she told the rally.
Speaking afterwards to CatholicIreland.net Mandy and her husband Tom explained that Minister Leo Varadkar had turned down their request to meet him.
“We would ask that he would meet us and discuss our campaign. We just want to introduce this service in all hospitals for everybody. The standard of care at the minute is very patchy around Ireland, some people get great care and other people are finding that it is not what they need. It needs to be standardised and we hope the Minister will meet us to discuss plans for the future.”
Tom Dunne explained that when they were going through all this with Muireann, they had to get information from the internet. “Jack and Jill were amazing and we want to emphasise that there is help there and great support.”
Anne Trainer, whose little boy Kevin has Down Syndrome, told the crowd that offering abortion for any form of a disability is a lethal form of discrimination, and warned that Ireland could follow Britain’s failure to protect its most vulnerable children, with 90% of babies with Down Syndrome being aborted before birth.
“Why are Amnesty International calling for Ireland’s abortions laws to be changed and claiming abortion is a “human right?” What is humane about aborting a baby simply because they have an extra set of chromosomes?” said Ms Trainer.
The biggest cheer of the day was given to Mary Bridget Kelly who has Down Syndrome and who told the crowd that “people with special needs have a right to life”.
The rally attendees were told that since Amnesty now supported the death penalty for unborn children it was time for the pro-life majority to ‘abandon Amnesty’ in favour genuine human rights organisations.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute said that people attending the Rally were looking ahead to Election 2016 and that a growing number of experienced activists were determined that pro-life voters would be engaged and informed ahead of polling day.
“The Rally is a real catalyst for growth and activism and a lot of that focus will be on Election 2016 and on ensuring that politicians understand that the majority of people do not want abortion on demand legalised in Ireland,” she said.
“The truth is that there is no public clamour to see abortion legalised. Last month, Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin said that a vote for Labour was a vote to Repeal the 8th amendment yet Labour continue to languish in the polls at just 7%. The pro-life movement is more organised and energised than ever before and we need to ensure that those politicians who broke the pro-life promises they made in 2011 are made to answer.”
Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life said she was opening a clinic to offer women life-affirming alternatives to abortion opposite the Marie Stopes abortion clinic in Belfast.
She told the rally, “I said at the rally in Belfast in 2014, ‘I am not going away even if they tell lies about me, slander my name or take me to court – I will still defend the unborn’.”
“I had V day – victory day on Monday – vindication day,” she said Belfast County Court’s decision to overturn the harassment charges brought against her by Dawn Purvis, a former director of Marie Stopes clinic in Belfast.
According to Bernadette Smyth, Marie Stopes wanted to silence the pro-life moment. “But do you know what, they picked on the wrong girl”, she said to cheers from the crowd.
“I am not going away, even if they tell lies about me, even if they slander me, take me to court or put me in jail.”
“Since 2012, Precious Life has been outside this evil venture, praying and offering help to vulnerable women. Every single opening hour, and because of our presence there are countless of babies’ lives have been saved,” Bernadette Smyth related.
She said that women were not turning up for their appointments at the Marie Stopes clinic and not going through with their abortions.
“Women like ‘Fiona’ who sent me a text and said ‘I was thinking about this right now, I was so glad to receive your visit. When I look at my baby Nathan, I always think that he is here thanks to you. You helped us to find the courage to make the right decision.”
She said such messages consoled her when she was going through hell with her family over the Dawn Purvis harassment charge.
Recalling the day of the alleged harassment charge, she said she had been outside the Marie Stopes clinic praying. “God used me in a powerful way, not just to save one little baby that day but two.”