May 2019: A reflection on the local and European Elections

Newly-elected Councillor, Máirín McGrath pictured with some family members including her father Deputy Mattie McGrath TD

 

Now that the Local and European elections are more or less settled, we can reflect on where we are and briefly assess what the outcomes might mean for the pro-life movement. The first thing to note is that 85 local election candidates were elected of the 228 who publicly
opposed repeal of the Eighth Amendment in last year’s referendum.

While we would all wish that this number was higher, it remains something we can welcome in the sense that it provides a reasonably broad geographical political base that can be built upon in the future.

Congratulations in particular to Peadar Tóibín and Aontú on the election of three new councillors, and to John Leahy of Renua on topping the poll in the Birr electoral area.

The pro-life movement owes an immense debt of gratitude to every pro-life candidate who stood in the Local and European elections, whether successful or not on this occasion.

These candidates and their families made huge personal sacrifices to help bring about the kind of change that would ensure the pro-life viewpoint is represented in public life. The experience gained by those who contested the recent elections will benefit the movement enormously into the future. It takes time to make political inroads. But the first steps have now been taken, and thankfully not
without reward.

It was tremendously heartening as well seeing young independent candidates like Máirín McGrath from Tipperary and Ben Dalton O’Sullivan from Cork getting elected.

And we should not forget the candidates, both successful and unsuccessful, from the main political parties who boldly stood up for life within their parties. I know of one particular situation where a pro-life candidate from one of the main political parties was shunned throughout the entire campaign by their party headquarters and local executive branch, all because they are pro-life. Despite the campaign against them, they were elected! Individuals like this are ploughing a very lonely furrow. We need to be mindful of this and reach out to them in solidarity.

The results must also be seen in the context of the near-total collapse of the Sinn Féin vote at local level. Given that they were one of the most vocal supporters of the current extreme abortion regime, this is an interesting development as it supports the view that they were not rewarded for this stance at the local electoral level. It’s clear too from the results that Aontú received significant support from former Sinn Féin voters.

Extreme abortion-supporting parties like People Before Profit also failed to generate any meaningful support outside of their Dublin base.
The other major focus of the recent elections has of course been the apparent resurgence of the Green Party. While much of the media coverage on this outcome was exaggerated, it remains noteworthy for a number of reasons.

From a pro-life perspective, it must be remembered that the Green Party in Ireland supported repeal of the Eighth Amendment and voted against, abstained or were absent for all of the humane amendments that were put forward at the time. This included its current Deputy Leader voting against the administration of pain relief to babies undergoing late term abortions.

Meanwhile, the Green’s sister party in Britain supports access to abortion with no restrictions on sex selection, time limits or disability screening. It is also linked to the European Green Party who support the inclusion of a ‘right’ to abortion in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. It’s important that people are made aware of these facts.

In overall terms, the outcome of the recent elections was certainly mixed from a pro-life perspective. We need to confront that fact squarely and honestly. Like all grassroots movements and indeed political parties, the work goes on to incentivise and motivate people to overcome any sense of reluctance to engage with the political process. Apathy and voter indifference are not an option from a pro-life point of view.

It is understandable that some pro-life volunteers sat this one out, given all that has happened in the past year. But spare a thought for the candidates who worked so hard and came so close to getting elected. The support of a few more pro-life volunteers could have made all the difference.

In Bray East, the outstanding independent candidate Malachaí Duddy lost out on a council seat by a single vote to Labour’s Anne Ferris. Let’s all remember this come the next election.

The pro-life movement must now take stock of what has happened and build on the successes from the recent elections. And we must work extra hard to ensure that the candidates who came close on this occasion are elected next time round.

Congratulations to all those who participated in any way in the elections in recent weeks.