They came in their coachloads from all parts of the island: North, South East and West. Organisers say a crowd of 50,000 people, young, old and middle-aged, attended the national Vigil for Life on Saturday (8th June) at Merrion Square in Dublin city centre. Among the slogans they chanted: “We are Pro-Life” and “Kill the Bill”.
One of the first people I noticed near the platform was the Fine Gael TD for Dublin South, Peter Mathews. He is a former classmate of mine in secondary school in Dublin. I mentioned him in a recent blog on Mount Anville. Close by was another TD, Peadar Tóibín of Sinn Féin (Meath West) and also the current Tyrone GAA football manager, Mickey Harte. Mickey applauded following the video contribution by his son-in-law John McAreavey. Mr McAreavey warned against the development of an abortion culture and said there was no more positive thing than standing up for the human rights of another person, especially the most vulnerable, and unborn children in danger of abortion were about as vulnerable as it got.
Peter Mathews became the first government TD to break ranks and commit to voting against the proposed abortion legislation when it comes before the Daíl. He told the Irish Independent:- “I will do what I have to do and that is vote against the bill”, because it is “mistaken in its foundation……It is a very badly formulated bill, on bad foundations and it should be withdrawn…..I will not support the bill as it stands. I will vote against”, he said. In his view, legislation for the X Case is not required. He told the newspaper he is prepared to face the consequences of voting against the party whip. “Anything I do in life has its consequences and I will deal with the consequences when and if they arise”, Mr Mathews told Gareth Naughton.
The Fine Gael member made his pledge after the Taoiseach Enda Kenny had rejected a call from the Archbishop of Dublin Dr Diarmuid Martin for deputies to be given a free vote on the proposals. For further details of Archbishop Martin’s views, see his interview in the Irish Independent on Saturday. The Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has given his TDs a free vote, although this was against his original wishes and was granted largely to avoid a damaging split in his parliamentary party.
In looking through the photographs I took at the rally I noticed many smiling faces among the crowd. I have already referred to the range of age groups reflected in the gathering. What was also noticeable was that most of the platform speakers and contributors were women and there seemed to be a female majority amongst the attendance. One of the video contributions was by Celeste Beal King, grand-niece of the assassinated US civil rights leader Martin Luther King.