Weekend's huge demonstration in Dublin shows public unease at attempt to scrap 8th amendment
100,000-strong rally was proof of ordinary people's opposition to abortion in the Irish Republic, writes Alban Maginness
Last Saturday, approximately 100,000 people from all over Ireland, including the North, took to the streets of Dublin in the rally and march to save the eighth. It was a massive demonstration to show popular support for retaining the eighth amendment to the Irish constitution. The eighth amendment was approved by referendum in 1983 and gives equal legal protection to both the life of the mother and the unborn child.
As former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader John Bruton has said: "Ireland should be proud of the constitutional protection of the unborn child enshrined in its constitution."
Constitutionally, it is probably unique in the world in that it protects the right to life of the unborn child. It was and still is an innovative, life-affirming human rights provision that the Irish people should be very protective of, given the widespread culture of abortion throughout the world, especially in the liberal and progressive democracies of Europe.
It is baffling as to how it is either liberal or progressive to legally end the life of a defenceless unborn child.
The national broadcaster, RTE, seemed to downplay the huge attendance at the march by claiming there was no verification of the numbers that took part. They also minimised the attendance by saying that there were only 15,000 at the rally in Merrion Square. The fact is, at that point, the march was still processing towards Merrion Square from O'Connell Street, about two miles away.
They should be reminded that they are a national broadcaster, well-funded by their viewers and listeners, and should show balance in their reporting and commentary.
The massive size of that demonstration is a visible expression of the growing unease of ordinary people at the attempt by the government to introduce abortion into the Republic.
Clearly, there is an energetic mobilisation of grassroots organisations that feel let down by the leaderships of the established parties such as Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
On the pro-life issue, people feel a disconnect from politicians like Leo Varadkar, Micheal Martin and Mary Lou McDonald.
These are the parliamentarians that they elected and trusted to run the country in the national interest. They cannot understand where these leaders got their mandates from to abolish the constitutional protection for unborn children and to introduce unlimited abortion.
It is as if the political elites in Dublin have detached themselves from their supporters in the country and operate on a different wavelength.
In doing this, they have the support of a media that is sympathetic to abortion. But politicians should bear in mind that the media does not always reflect popular opinion and can become an echo-chamber, reinforcing elitist views.
This arbitrary approach by the establishment elites to promote abortion will further damage politics and alienate more voters.
In Dublin on Saturday, there was a palpable air of revolt against a political system that was not relating to the values and views of ordinary citizens.
The politicians, in the minds of those who attended, had misjudged the mood of the people.
The marchers were not natural rebels, but ordinary voters whose votes had been taken for granted. Politicians should never take the people who vote for them for granted.
If the eighth amendment is repealed in the forthcoming referendum, the government will introduce legislation to permit abortion without restriction up to 12 weeks. They will also introduce abortion on the grounds of risk to the mother's physical or mental health, and this could be right up to birth.
This is not limited abortion; rather, the scope of the proposed abortion legislation is so wide that it will be more liberal than the current British legislation.
At the moment, British legislation is so permissive that up to 200,000 babies are aborted every year. That figure amounts to one in 20 of all pregnancies in Britain.
So, from being one of the safest places in the world for an unborn child, the Republic will become one of the most dangerous places in the world.
But marches and rallies - no matter how big - will not of themselves change anything. There is an extremely powerful political establishment hard at work, supported by a compliant media, seeking victory in the referendum on May 25.
Pro-abortion groups, financed by foreign billionaires, are aggressively campaigning to repeal the eighth amendment.
Only the tireless door-to-door canvassing of the various grassroots pro-life activists can ensure that this inhuman proposal will be defeated.
Be in no doubt: this is the greatest human rights challenge facing Ireland, both North and South.
The right to life is the very foundation for all human rights, and to undermine the right to life of the unborn is to imperil human rights fundamentally.