Youth group seen as cutting edge of the anti-abortion cause


Where other groups express their opposition to abortion by writing letters, the new wave of anti-abortion groups, such as Youth Defence, prefer direct action. Protest marches, hard-hitting advertising campaigns and pickets on politicians' homes are among the controversial methods they have employed to promote their anti-abortion policies.

It was not entirely surprising therefore when some of the most prominent anti-abortion campaigners turned up yesterday at the Children's Court with the parents of the 13-year-old pregnant girl who is in care after being raped.

Among them was Mr Peter Scully, seen by many as the main force behind anti-abortion protest in recent years. Mr Scully, who is now the spokesman for a group called Family and Life, said last night he had been contacted by the parents, rather than the other way around.

However, the fact that the parents have decided that they do, after all, wish their daughter to continue her pregnancy appears to indicate they have been swayed by the anti-abortion group.

Also present at yesterday's hearing was Mrs Una Bean Nic Mhathuna, who is best-known for her involvement in the No-Divorce Campaign in 1995. On the night of the count, Ms Nic Mhathuna made a memorable appearance on television when she shooed away pro-divorce supporters with the comment "G'way, ye wife-swapping sodomites!"

Ms Nic Mhathuna's two daughters, Una and Niamh, were cofounders of Youth Defence along with Mr Scully. Niamh is the chairwoman of Youth Defence, which says it has also established contact with the parents.

After his involvement with Youth Defence, Mr Scully helped set up the Irish branch of Human Life International, a militant antiabortion group with headquarters in the US. However, earlier this year, he parted company from HLI.

This followed allegations during the divorce referendum that the organisation had solicited money in the US for the No-Divorce Campaign, in which Mr Scully was involved. Mr Scully denied the allegations.

The disagreements between Mr Scully and the US organisation ended up in the courts, and Mr Scully and the Irish directors of HLI set up Family and Life.