The local and European elections are an opportunity for pro-life people to show the political establishment that they have not gone away. After their defeat in 1983, abortion activists never contemplated giving up. They settled in for the long haul. It paid off.
Pro-life people need to do exactly the same, confident that a time will come when people will look back in horror at the widespread social acceptance of abortion. It will be seen for what it is: a terrible choice for women and something that ends human life on an industrial scale while making a lot of money for those willing to carry it out.
The best way to build political momentum is by doing the unglamorous work of serving the local community
People might think local elections are irrelevant but local politics really matter. It is not just because of issues such as exclusion zones around abortion facilities. Leo Varadkar has admitted that constitutional issues regarding freedom of speech are important but in a startling attempt to impose groupthink, Louth County Council has already tried to ban this kind of peaceful vigil completely.
Much more important is the reality that the best way to build political momentum is from the ground up, by doing the unglamorous work of serving the local community.
No one realises this more than Aontú’s Peadar Tóibín. Having a candidate elected in the Northern Ireland Council elections and getting 1.1 per cent of the first preference vote was an extraordinary result for a party that did not even exist four months ago. (To put that in context, People Before Profit got 1.4 per cent of first preferences but the vagaries of quotas and electoral boundaries meant that it got five seats.)
It helps that Aontú is not a single issue party but is also a party of economic justice. It has a real vision for fairness in everything from housing to health. Our country desperately needs an alternative to the establishment's entitled stagnancy.
Voters need to realise that the pro-choice parties will spin success in the local elections as an endorsement of all their policies, including on abortion.
It is worth remembering what kind of amendments to the abortion legislation the pro-choice parties rejected
It is heartening to hear that when candidates from the pro-choice parties go to doors and declare they are personally pro-life, they are being asked just exactly what that means.
Voters have seen too many politicians go “on a journey” to take anyone at face value when it comes to this crucial issue.
It is worth remembering what kind of amendments to the abortion legislation the pro-choice parties rejected. Here are some of them: a ban on late-term abortions and abortions on the grounds of gender or disability; provision of pain relief in late-term abortions; parental notification when the mother is under 16; protection of infants born alive after failed abortions; and freedom of conscience for medical professionals and ancillary staff.
Fine Gael’s official line was that issues such as these did not belong in primary legislation and should be dealt with via guidelines afterwards. It is an interesting comparison that in primary legislation involving animals, it is possible to mandate that no animal should suffer but apparently, it is not possible in the case of human babies.
As Senator Ronán Mullen pointed out to Simon Harris in the Seanad, section 17 (1) of the Animal Health and Welfare Act 2013 states that no operation or procedure, with or without instruments, can be carried out on an animal "without the use of an appropriate anaesthetic or analgesic administered so as to prevent or relieve any pain during or arising from the operation or procedure".
Given the sheer inhumanity of the refusal to legislate for even the same protection for late-term babies before birth, members of the established parties need to persuade pro-life voters why they deserve any vote, especially since there are dedicated pro-life parties such as Aontú and Renua and principled pro-life Independents to vote for in most constituencies.
Voters are not stupid. Even if a candidate from a pro-choice party declares that he or she is personally pro-life, given a choice between someone who voted two years ago in favour of a pro-life motion at a council meeting but who has done nothing since, and someone who has been breaking her back about the issue for years, they know who deserves the number one.
However, the right to vote is precious. It is important to use it wisely and strategically. Plumping for pro-life candidates will often fail to make use of the capacity of the single transferable vote to keep people out as well as in.
While only a minority will actually run for election, everyone can help in some way to get candidates elected. Again, the work is unglamorous. Being up a ladder in the middle of the night putting up election posters is hard work. Canvassing is hard work. Standing with election literature at a shopping centre while people ignore you is hard work. It all has to be done.
No miracles will happen during this election but the groundwork for future progress will be laid. It may take 30 years to reverse this unjust and inhumane legislation but the first steps must be taken now.