BELFAST, July 20, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – When 7,000 rallied and marched in Belfast July 7th to defend Ireland and Northern Ireland’s pro-life laws, at least some of the countries’ ruling class took notice. Youth Defence and the Life Institute, two of the Republic of Ireland’s foremost pro-life groups, have “welcomed” comments from a group of legislators who informed the government they would oppose any attempt to overturn the country’s law.
Fifteen Irish legislators, known as TDs, say they will not vote for any law that liberalises abortion even if party whips are deployed, the Irish Times reported. Further, they are demanding that the government share the findings of the “expert group” convened to discuss the implications of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C case.
The Irish Times called it a “potential backbench mutiny on a flashpoint issue,” with the Fine Gael/Labour Party coalition government facing a difficult road ahead forcing EU-mandated austerity measures on an already angry public. Polls have shown that, despite the aggressive support by Labour for abortion legalisation, there is little backing from the public.
“We commend these TDs and Senators for their pro-life stance and for respecting the wishes of the pro-life majority,” said Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute. “Now we’re working to ensure that the rest of the party follows suit.”
Minister for Health James Reilly gave the TDs a “cast iron promise” that they will be consulted on the expert group’s findings before it is taken to be discussed in Cabinet. The TDs told the Irish Times that the majority of the Fine Gael governing party were opposed to liberalisation of the abortion law.
One TD, not named in the press, told the Times, “I firmly believe that abortion will present a greater challenge than austerity for this Government.”
“Fine Gael and Labour have clearly diverging views on this. We made it clear that for Fine Gael this is a red-line issue. We must make sure that Fine Gael Ministers in Cabinet are fully aware of the strong views of Senators and TDs on the matter,” he added.
Reilly’s assurance was backed by party chairman Charlie Flanagan, who said, “The Fine Gael party will have every opportunity to discuss the abortion issue and the report of the expert group before any Government decision is made.”
Reilly also defended the expert group against allegations by the pro-life movement that it was heavily stacked to be in favour of legalisation.
Youth Defence leadership said that the announcement was timely and coincided with the massive turn-out for the Belfast rally and the effects of the group’s nation-wide “Keep Your Pro-life Promise” campaign. The campaign, they said, has raised the number of phone calls received by Fine Gael TDs on the abortion issue to “an unprecedented level”.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore has openly said that the ECHR decision created a requirement for the Irish government to change the law, and the Fine Gael Taoiseach, Enda Kenny launched his term of office with a series of attacks on the Catholic Church, the leading support base for the law.
Pro-life activists in both halves of the divided country understand that the fortunes of the law on one side of the divide will strongly influence lawmakers on the other. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, are among the tiny handful of countries in the European Union that retains meaningful legal restrictions on abortion, and among an even smaller number in the English-speaking world. For this reason, abortion activists in Westminster and further abroad, particularly groups based in Brussels, have been cranking up the pressure on the governments in Belfast and Dublin government to bring in laws or guidelines, to shake the law loose from its constitutional mooring.
Visit Youth Defence’s website for more photos of the pro-life rally.