DUBLIN, February 28, 2011 ( –  Irish pro-life advocates who campaigned hard to keep abortion in the forefront of the election issues say they are in general pleased with the outcome of Friday’s general elections. Niamh Uí Bhriain, head of the Life Institute, told election was a sign that the people of Ireland continue firmly to reject legalized abortion.

At the same time, pro-lifers are warning that a coalition government with the pro-abortion Labour party will present challenges ahead.

Fianna Fáil, which had been Ireland’s main ruling party since the 1920s, lost a stunning 60 seats on Friday and now holds only 18 in the lower house. Fine Gael, the leading opposition party, which had pledged to retain Ireland’s protections for the unborn, now has 70 seats but is forced into a coalition with the strongly pro-abortion Labour party that holds 36 seats. Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, came from nowhere to win 13 seats.

Pro-life campaigners had particularly targeted a promise by Labour Party leader Eamonn Gilmore that the party would work towards legalizing abortion. Gilmore had told media that the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the notorious ABC case required that the country change its pro-life constitution.

Labour is the only party in still strongly Catholic Ireland to make legalization into a major platform plank. But the electorate was having none of it, and despite a last-minute burst of spending on advertising, the party polled just 19.4 percent of votes cast.

Although Labour had polled at 11 percent in 2007, the party’s fortunes had been expected to be transformed by the economic collapse, and polls prior to the ABC case ruling had them at between 27-30 percent of the votes.

With the economy indisputably the driving force behind this election, pro-life campaigners were pleased that the Irish electorate retained their traditional priorities for the defence of life. Canvassers reported hearing again and again from voters and various candidates that abortion was a leading issue.

Labour candidates included Ivana Bacik, perhaps Ireland’s most high-profile abortion campaigner, in Dún Laoghaire, reportedly the country’s most liberal constituency. Bacik was parachuted in by the party to stand with Gilmore, and was hotly tipped to take the second Labour seat in that area. But pro-life canvassers concentrated on left-leaning but socially conservative areas of the constituency, informing voters of Labour’s intention to legalize abortion-on-demand, and asking them not to give Bacik a preference.

Uí Bhriain said: “Bacik lost the contest, and with it, her chance to make an immediate impact on Ireland’s pro-life laws.”

Katie Robinson of the pro-life campaign group Youth Defence also pointed to other constituencies targeted by pro-life canvassers such as Mayo, Donegal North and South, and Dublin Central where Labour did not do as well as was previously expected.

“Along with groups like Donegal for Life we worked to get pro-life commitments from other candidates and to make Labour’s policies known, and it paid off,” she said.

“But there’s a lot more to do, especially since Labour will most likely be a junior partner in government.”

Uí Bhriain said that it was evident that there was no mandate whatsoever for any government to move to bring forward abortion legislation.

“Fine Gael, who will now lead the new government, won pro-life votes because they promised to protect human life,” she said.

“They must be held to that promise, and the pro-life movement will be united to ensure that no attempt is made to re-classify legitimate medical treatment as abortion, which is the biggest threat facing our pro-life laws now since the European Court ruling in the ABC case.”

The pro-life movement, she said, has become expert at targeting its message and at explaining complex issues arising in the abortion debate and that expertise will be “poured into a new campaign which aimed to ensure that the European Court was not allowed to foist abortion on Ireland.”


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