Last weekend, myself and Katie made the epic 25 minute flight across to Belfast to join Ireland for their 10th annual Rally for Life. Katie is one of SPUC Scotland’s lovely young volunteers who has been actively involved for several months. Katie has been involved with Project Truth’s monthly stalls, 40 Days for Life and she’s also one of our valued White Flower speakers.
Ordinarily getting up at 4am after only 4hrs sleep would be an absolute drag but we were so filled with excitement about our trip, we hardly even noticed! After a few selfies, a bunch of giggles over the trolley service only making it 4 rows down the plane and a hoot over how it took us longer to get to the airport than it did to fly across – we were on Irish soil. Friends, Sarah and Gemma were kind enough to put us up for a night so we first went to their house for a lovely breakfast (I love that soda bread!). FYI – Gemma works for Precious Life in Belfast and also was the event’s MC. We are delighted that both girls will be joining us on this year’s Project Truth Roadshow!
A group of us gathered in Custom House Square several hours before to help with the set up – which consisted of a lot of singing, dancing and a sea of balloons! As folk began to arrive, so did the rain – but that didn’t get us down! As ever, the joy to be witnessed at a pro-life gathering was evident. Families were dancing and smiling. Anna and Elsa from Frozen even came to entertain the kids (and of course my inner 8 year old self). Many people wore Rally for Life t-shirts which said Pro-Life and Proud on the back, which I particularly loved.
It was great to see so many familiar faces who had come from other countries to join in support with Ireland. It was lovely to see Rhoslyn Thomas, a colleague from SPUC in London. Rhoslyn had been travelling around Ireland with this year’s SPUC summer interns on the Save Lives, Save the 8th Roadshow which ended with a bang at the Rally for Life. Interns Amber and Jenny said,
“A roadshow is a fantastic way for prolifers to bear public witness against the culture of death and to carry our message to a larger audience. Being on the streets and travelling to different places allows us to reach people in a personal way and gives members of the public an opportunity to raise queries and gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding abortion and of any help available to women and families.”
We also bumped into the March for Life UK team who were also buzzing to be there and afterwards I got this statement from them,
“The March for Life UK team had a brilliant time in Belfast at the All Ireland Rally for Life. It is necessary that we support Irish pro-lifers at this critical time when there are so many pressures on them to legalise abortion. It was great to hear from many of those present that active pro-life work is regularly part of their lives which is one of the reasons why it is important to come together to encourage each other not to grow weary. We’ve all come back home with renewed pro-life spirits!”
Thousands of people assembled, ready to take to the streets in defence of life and to spread the theme message “Personhood Begins at Conception”. At the 10th Anniversary of the All Ireland Rally for Life, opinion remained strong. As Bernadette Smyth of Precious Life affirmed,
“The message is very clear here today, the people of Ireland would never agree to any change in our legislation and the message and theme is that personhood begins at conception. The personhood of every child begins at that stage and must be protected throughout the pregnancy.”
She later said,
“We demand that our politicians acknowledge that every child has a right to life, and that personhood begins in the womb. We want them to represent the majority – who are pro-life and proud.”
There was a very different message being touted in the same city on the same day where they also held a Rally for Choice which a few hundred participated in. Emma Campbell from Alliance for Choice was saying,
“The message is that we want change, we want change to the law, we don’t want women to be treated like criminals and fugitives and prosecuted and persecuted and stigmatised just because they want access to abortion. It’s 2016, it’s not 1861 anymore and this country needs to move on.”
When she mentions 1861, she is referring to the Offences Against the Person Act which protects the child in the womb. As far as I’m aware, the product of pregnancy hasn’t changed since then, plus this isn’t a ‘get with the times’ situation. We’re talking about a living, developing human being! Time cannot change that fact. Whatever era we’re in cannot change that fact. As John Deighan said in his blog a couple of weeks ago,
“Is the advancement of time an assurance that things are getting better? Does that make sense in a world where the progress of time has seen the rise of worldwide terror plots or the increase of human trafficking. Some things were worse in the Victorian age and some were better. Killing the child in a mother’s womb would have been regarded as abhorrent in Victorian days and is one thing on which it was more civilized than our own age.”
To watch BBC N.Ireland’s report of the day click here
The march through the city was amazing, we were holding a long banner whilst walking and we had covered it with balloons. The bright colours; the joyful atmosphere; people dancing to the music; people joining in the chants – it was all a complete joy to behold and very exciting. Even as the rain lashed down on us and a rogue balloon kept smacking my face due to the wind I felt full of joy and full of life. I even said to Katie, “You know Katie, any other time walking in the rain and wind, I’d be ragin’, but I’m so happy I’m here and I’m having the best time!”. It’s difficult not to be infected with the joy and as you think of the reasons of why you’re there and why we march, it makes it all even more worthwhile.
When we got back to the square we listened to a few speakers. Fionnuala McArdle whose baby girl, Meabh, was born at just 23 weeks’ gestation, which is within the legal limit for an abortion in Britain under the 1967 Abortion Act. Doctors gave her baby girl a 1% chance of survival. She weighed just 1lb when she was born and is now thriving at nearly nine months’ old and exceeding all expectations. Fionnuala had to fight for care to help Meabh survive and her message was,
“I urge anyone who may go into pre-term labour to fight for your baby! No-one else is going to do it for you, they want to be able to just hand you your baby and let your baby pass away. Now, you have the right to fight for your child, give your baby the chance and if that isn’t the case, then at least you’ll know that you did everything you can.”
Bronagh Park, the mother of a toddler who was born with only half of her heart developed, had a special message for the Rally too.
“My daughter Sofia is nearly two years old and lives with only half a working heart, she has liver disease, and all her organs are on the wrong side. She has had four open heart surgeries and a pacemaker fitted,” she said. “I was told, when I was 23 weeks pregnant, that I should have an abortion because of my daughter’s disability,”
“But abortion never crossed my mind,” she said to loud applause. “Sofia is a wee fighter and she amazes us every day. She has brought us so much joy and happiness.”
Spokeswoman for The Life Institute, Niamh Uí Bhriain sent a message to Amnesty International. They could support Human Rights or they could support abortion, one or the other because the two stances are not compatable.
Isabel Vaughan-Spruce from March for Life also took the stage and it was very touching that she was full of thanks to the Irish people for setting us such a great example and for not growing weary in this relentless battle. She encouraged them to stay strong in their phenomenal witness so that other countries can’t help but follow them.
At the end, Customs House Square erupted into massive party of folk singing and dancing. I myself was on the stage dancing waving my Scotland flag to show that Scotland’s pro-lifers support our Irish brothers and sisters. We’re all in this battle together and we all come together to support each other.
That night a massive group of us went for dinner to celebrate the day. It was a great time to network with fellow pro-lifers from all over and indulge in some more dancing! Sarah Haire observed,
“With direct opposition on the same day and same place, of a pro choice rally I couldn’t help but continue to think how important and real the work we, as pro life activists do. The battle to legalise abortion in Ireland is stronger than ever and we need to remain strong. The pro choice rally gave me that strength because a rally for the legalisation of such a horrendous attack on the unborn is, in my opinion, unthinkable and so, to see (while it may only have been an 1/8 of our crowd) assemble to promote that, it only reassured me of how important this work is and how we need to continue fighting the good fight. And so, it was encouraging and reassuring to see the huge crowd come out in support of the long standing moral attitude that every life is precious.”
Katie Tennent said,
“To see thousands out in the pouring rain defending the right to life was so inspiring. Especially so many young people! Their spirits were not dampened. Despite what we are told in the media, Ireland is truly a pro-life Nation and are willing to stand up for that. I felt incredibly privileged to stand with the Irish and proclaim the truth – that personhood begins at conception!”
I too was in awe at the amount of young people involved at the Rally for Life. Not only in attendance but how many are so actively involved in the direct organisation. We here in Scotland also are seeing loads of young people standing up to defend life and I can’t help but speculate on how amazing our next generation truly can be.
A fantastic night, rounded off a fantastic day.
Ireland – You’re amazing.
Stay pro-life and proud!