Anti-abortion side has grasped the importance of being well prepared
Saturday’s Vigil for Life rally in Dublin shows just how much campaigners have learned
A section of the large crowd attending the anti-abortion Vigil for Life at Merrion Square, Dublin, on Saturday. Photograph: Eric Luke
The Vigil for Life in Dublin last Saturday afternoon was a blur of sunshine, high-viz vests, a scattering of Declan Ganley fliers and a lot of balloons in purple, pink and white. It was widely regarded, not least by its organisers, as an unqualified success. As the crowds turned for home you were handed a card that said “Thank You! Today was a great success, and well done for making that possible.”
Forward planning is key. The same card that declared Saturday a great success was announcing the Rally for Life, which is to be held on July 6th: “Come & see: surprise guest speakers. 100,000 pro-life pledges gathered. For the first time in Ireland: ‘Voices from the womb’!”
However, and surprisingly perhaps, despite the excellent organisation evident on Saturday, not everyone was optimistic. “ This isn’t as good as last time,” said a woman to her friend as they began to walk up one side of Merrion Square towards the Dáil. “The crowd was right down the end the last time.” But then if you go on protests it is impossible not to compare them, and to complain a little, because protests are strangely hard work.
“Don’t call it a protest,” said a garda quickly. “Or a march. It’s a vigil. They were giving out to us yesterday about what to call it. It’s a vigil.”
The anti-abortion movement has learned a lot. When a recorded message from John McAreavey, the young widower of the murdered Michaela McAreavey, appeared on the screens, the first thing he said was, “We must never forget our responsibility to support women with crisis pregnancies.” Of the men also responsible for these so-called crisis pregnancies there was no discernible mention, all afternoon. The ostensible shift of emphasis to caring for, rather than castigating, the unmarried pregnant girl has created a strange anti-abortion world. On Saturday there was no mention of sex. To listen to the speeches – even the speech of Edel Best of Women Hurt [ by abortion] who, like John McAreavey, is a Northerner – and to read the literature here, you would think that there had been more than one virgin birth in history.
It was a big vigil. Whether there were 20,000 there, as the organisers claimed, is very much in doubt. Still, the crowd was substantial, almost covering two sides of Merrion Square, which was blocked to traffic, and standing in strong June sunshine. Bus driver Michael O’Brien said eight buses from his employers’ company had come from Wexford town alone – six 50-seater and two 23-seaters. “That’s a lot of people,” he added. He had driven them up for the rally in January as well.