Ireland’s referendum result on May 25th was a reversal of the 1983 referendum that brought about the Eighth Amendment, Ireland’s constitutional safeguard for the unborn. The old two-thirds who voted for the Eighth Amendment have now become the new one-third and vice versa as 1,429,981 (66.4%) voted “Yes” and 723,632 (33.6%) voted “No”.
Some talk of this vote as being symbolic of the ‘death’ of Catholic Ireland. Perhaps it is more realistic to talk of it as just another example of the ongoing burial of Catholicism in Ireland as that country’s dominant social, cultural, and political force.
Last Friday, The Irish Times’ exit poll suggested that the great majority in every age cohort from 18 to 64 were ‘Yes’ voters. Yet, 93% of primary schooling in the Irish Republic is controlled by the Catholic Church. The vast majority of those ‘Yes’ voters would have gone through some form of Catholic education at some time in the past 5o years. Therefore, it raises questions about what is being taught about Catholic morals and what (if any) impact it has upon those pupils attending church-run schools.
Even more depressing was the exit poll carried out by the State broadcaster, RTÉ, which estimated that almost a third of practicing Catholics had voted ‘Yes’ to removing the Eighth Amendment.
One other statistic to consider is this: last autumn only six men began training for the priesthood at Ireland’s national seminary, Maynooth. That is the lowest intake of seminarians since Maynooth’s foundation in 1795.
However one measures it, Catholic Ireland has been in steep decline for generations—a downward spiral caused or not helped by a number of factors, including the many clerical abuse scandals. This latest referendum result is just another public defeat in a long line for the Church in Ireland.
The question of what really ‘died’ in Ireland last Friday is perhaps more worrying still.
For all the feminist talk of ‘pride’ in the outcome of the poll, given the subject matter there should have been at least a scintilla of restraint, especially now as any form of ‘shame’ on this subject seems no longer allowed. The sight of ‘celebrations’ at the outcome of the referendum should cause all to take stock and consider what exactly is being celebrated. Abortion is never a cause for rejoicing; from whatever perspective it is, at the very least, a tragedy.
So, it was not just respect and love for life that died in Ireland last Friday. Judging from the media images of these ‘celebrations’, common human decency was also dealt a mortal blow. These were the first casualties of this referendum result. Unfortunately, they shall likely not be the last.
The other thing that ‘died’ is a sense of robust political discourse in the Irish Republic. There is now an Irish political establishment that is wholly liberal on issues such as abortion. It is backed to the hilt in this ‘progressive’ drive by the Irish media. Today, it is clear that Ireland does not have the political or media outlets to oppose the liberal agenda currently unleashed on the Irish people. No doubt this agenda will continue to be dressed in words such as ‘modern’, ‘inclusive’, and ‘tolerant’. Of course, it is none of these things, but in the public square there are just too few to point this out. In due course, those who do oppose this state-sponsored agenda will be silenced, sidelined, or worse.
In light of the landslide vote for abortion, some brave voices, such as Breda O’Brien, the sole pro-life voice on The Irish Times, talked of Irish pro-lifers learning from other pro-life movements abroad and of resisting the changes that are now to be put in place. It is too early to say where the Irish pro-life movement goes from here, but one thing is clear: it will not be given as much airtime in the Irish media. In addition, its ability to be taken seriously by politicians, all too aware of what the word ‘landslide’ means for their political futures, also remains to be seen.
The pro-life movement in Britain gains some of its support from the fact that for 50 years there has been legalised abortion in that jurisdiction. British pro-lifers have all seen and heard horror stories a plenty, so much so they know that abortion is not the answer for any pregnant woman but the beginning of many woes.
Ireland has yet to realise this fact. It has yet to have grubby ‘abortion clinics’ on its back streets, staffed by medical staff too ashamed to tell people socially what it is they do for a living.
Ireland has yet to have the global industrial complex of abortion providers come to its land, businessmen and women who have a vested interest in ensuring there is a demand for their endless supply.
Ireland has yet to have the trauma, often invisible but there none the less, of the countless women—and, indeed, men—for whom abortion was presented as a simple solution only for those same women to be maimed both physically and emotionally for the rest of their days as a result.
In light of the reality of abortion in other states, the celebrations upon the streets of Dublin and elsewhere by the triumphant ‘Yes’ campaigners seem hollow. In fact, these public display are as much of a lie as the new ‘health provision’ now being offered to Irish women.
In a matter of days, many things have died in Ireland—not least the illusion that it is a Catholic country. And at the center is the real and horrible fatality: that unborn children of a once Catholic nation will not see the light of day because of a plebiscite on who should be allowed to live and who should die.