Paul Tully: a giant in British and Irish pro-life history
Editor's note: In the following article, John Smeaton of Britain's Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, pays tribute to departing SPUC general secretary Paul Tully. Tully worked with SPUC for 35 years.
December 2, 2016 (SPUC) -- Paul Tully leaves SPUC'ss employment for pastures new today as a giant in SPUC's history as well as British and Irish pro-life history, alongside other giants such as Elspeth Chowdharay-Best and Alan Smith (who founded the Society in late 1966/early 1967) and Phyllis Bowman, SPUC's first director/chief executive (who forged the grassroots educational and political movement on which all our pro-life work is based).
35 years ago almost to the day, Paul Tully started work for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children as SPUC’s membership registrar. He was responsible for managing the Society’s index-card member records from 1981 till 1983. During that period SPUC acquired a microcomputer and Paul transferred our records to a database system. Paul went on to undertake a number of important roles in SPUC's employment, including head of research and representing SPUC in the broadcast media, until becoming SPUC's general secretary nearly two decades ago, and deputy chief executive in more recent years.
I think that pro-life activists, especially young people in the movement, should study the work of Paul Tully - which you can begin to do by reviewing his many contributions to my blog and his appearances/contributions on the SPUC website. His knowledge and analysis of the medico-scientific, legal and political issues facing the pro-life movement are second to none - and Paul leaves a permanent legacy to Britain in the form of historic life-saving achievements in which he played a critical role, for example:
- In 2009 SPUC successfully took the Department of Health and Public Services to court to prevent them from introducing more widespread abortion into Northern Ireland by the back door – Paul’s knowledge and experience of fighting against abortion in the courts on behalf of SPUC was crucial in this victory which has saved countless lives.
- In 2011, in what became known as the "bedroom abortions" case, legal arguments submitted by SPUC's lawyers helped to prevent a change in the law that would have allowed abortions to take place in the home. Mr Justice Supperstone, when making his ruling, cited the argument put forward by SPUC's lawyers on the advice of Paul Tully.
In addition, Paul Tully's expert briefings sent to SPUC’s tens of thousands of local activists played a critical role:
- In the overwhelming defeat of assisted suicide legislation in 2015
- In the defeat of the (Labour) Government's moves to make sex education compulsory throughout the school years in 2010
- In stopping legislative proposals to remove virtually all legal protection for unborn children in Britain in 2010
And of course I must mention here Paul's massive contribution to the Glasgow midwives' case in which SPUC supported two brave senior midwives from Glasgow, Mary Doogan and Connie Wood, who fought to protect their right to conscientious objection to abortion. In April of 2013, Mary and Connie won a unanimous appeal court ruling which upheld that their right to conscientious objection was protected by law and Paul's meticulous briefing of Connie and Mary and their lawyers, and his daily support of Connie and Mary, played an important role in achieving that ruling - tragically overturned by the Supreme Court in London the following year.
Katherine Hampton, Paul's assistant, who has worked for SPUC for 23 years, reminded me of countless other lasting achievements in the work of Paul Tully which I do not have time and space to mention today - but I will return to this important subject.
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On a personal level, I have worked closely with Paul every day of my working life for the past 35 years. He and Antonia, his wife, have been very good friends to me. I will miss Paul deeply and sorely. Whenever I have thought about Paul’s influence on my life I have been put in mind of the “just man” to whom the Bible refers in many places, including in Psalm 112:
Blessed the man who fears the Lord
Who greatly delights in his commands …
… It is good for the man gracious in lending
Who conducts his affairs with justice.
For he shall never be shaken;
The righteous shall be remembered forever.
He shall not fear an ill report
His heart is steadfast trusting the Lord.
His heart is tranquil, without fear
Till at last he looks down on his foes
Thank you Paul. You are a true giant in SPUC's history and in British and Irish pro-life history. Josephine and I will be praying for you and for your family as you go on to fulfil your long-cherished career ambition in which you are so eminently (including professionally) well-qualified. Your new employers and colleagues are very fortunate - and I would bet my bottom dollar that you will remain at the heart of pro-life work, not least because of the legacy you have left us, for decades to come.
Reprinted with permission from Society for the Protection of Unborn Children.