Largest pro-life rally in Irish history draws 30,000

Undaunted by rain, sleet, and cold, upwards of 30,000 pro-life Irish rallied in Dublin to call on the Fine Gael government to keep its promise not to legislate on abortion.

Although the weather was cold, spirits were warm and bright Saturday evening in Merrion Square. The Unite for Life vigil drew busloads of pro-life demonstrators from all corners of the country. As the crowds grew, performers and speakers – including Mickey Harte, the most respected and successful football coach in Ireland – entertained the audience.

By 7pm, police confirmed that at least 30,000 demonstrators were present, making it the largest pro-life rally in Irish history. To put that number in perspective, if this rally were held in a country with the population of the United States, it would be the equivalent of 2,000,000 marchers!

The Irish news media had difficulty ignoring the masses gathered to affirm protection for women and their babies:

The Irish government plans to legislate early this year in order to legalize abortion in some circumstances. Organizers hope that the groundswell of pro-life opposition will deter the Fine Gael government from breaking its promise to the Irish people.

  • Elise

    To put it in sharper perspective, 30,000 represents 0.47 percent of the total Irish population (including N. Ireland). After months and months of planning, 200,000 euros worth of funding and free buses travelling to Dublin from all over Ireland, not to mention further incentives such as the chance to win i-pads and free placards and candles, and Catholic priests rounding up their congregations en mass (no pun intended) to encourage them to attend the vigil… 30,000 is actually something of a disappointment. I have never seen a more choreographed, nor tightly controlled ‘free expression of democratic values’.

    • bitter much?….. tell me when the last time 30 thousand people gathered in Dublin to protest against anything?? and what is all this bull about free shit, cop on for Gods sake, Chuck Feeney and groups like Ifpa have admitted to fueling financially the pro choice movement in Ireland! the 19th was freezing and wet and people still stood there, not for anything free but because they believe this is a cause worth getting up at the crack of dawn getting to buses and travelling for hours to stand in the cold for! and you know the of people that make the differences! Fair play to all who attended!

      • Elise

        Not bitter at all, you’re perfectly welcome to your views and I’m glad you enjoyed your day out. I’m just stating a few numerical facts. Regardless of the funding they receive, the pro-choice lobby have never spent this much on a protest alone, so I don’t think comparison is meaningful in this context. And I think it’s weird and hardly democratic to ask people to protest, and then dictate the contents of the placards they can hold up at said protest. I would also say that I doubt very much if this will change anything re. the current legislation debate, so whilst 30,000 is certainly a large number, I don’t think it’s enough to change anything and if Ireland really was as pro-life as Youth Defence believe, I would have expected far greater numbers, given the publicity this march was given. As a final point, here are some other examples to put this protest into further perspective:
        – In various countries around the world in February 2003, an estimated thirty million people marched in protest against the imminent war in Iraq – three million in Rome alone – and were unable to do anything to stop the Bush/Blair war agenda.
        – In 2002, there was a march in London organised by the Countryside Alliance, attended by 400,000 people, over ten times the numbers at yesterday’s vigil, despite the issue of hunting with dogs being far more of a niche issue than abortion, (which, lets face it, directly affects half the world’s population). Again, they were unable to prevent the ban on hunting, and despite a change in government since the ban, it has never been overturned.
        -There is currently a football match going on the the English premier league between Chelsea and Arsenal. 30,000 people would only half fill Arsenal’s home stadium.

        I could give many more examples. I’m just trying to show that whilst 30,000 people fills up part of one street making up one side of one square in one city in Ireland very convincingly, this is not an overwhelming indication that the Irish people are pro-life. In fact, I’m quite optimistic about the possibility of real legislation on this issue, supported by the majority of Irish people. That’s why I’m not bitter. Just realistic.

        • Sorry you obviously didn’t read my reply, Gathered in Dublin? You know this little country we live in?? Why don’t the pro Choice lobby spend there funds mobilizing their people? In fact what do they use all their funds for seeing as they have billionaire people and companies on their side not to mention the majority of the media? no body indicated to me i had to hold any poster or banner there i think they were offered to people, there were many people with their own banners standing where i was in fact, If Ireland is in fact pro choice, i would have expected more pro choice protester to have turned up 150 is you have to admit a very pathetic and embarrassing turn out to any protest! I’m quite certain if weather conditions were better and it was summer they would have had possibly twice that number out. as for the publicity for this protest it was done by regular people standing outside local shops churches groups and meetings, social media like facebook and twitter pages seriously nothing high tech or outrageously expensive! again just normal people who care about something giving up their time for a cause! It was called United for Life, it was organised by many pro life groups not just one by the way. Not that i actually need to justify any of this really, i just hate that the pro choice side are sooo bitter about everything that the pro life side does, when they are very very very capable of doing their own things…. if the big IF of course they have the support they claim they have.Which i personally do not believe i believe Ireland is more edu

          • educated and modern medicine means that babies are surviving younger and younger all the time 3d ultrasounds unborn baby images are making it harder and harder to deny the unborn child’s existence and viability. People see all this and obviously social acceptance of single parent families and young mothers have also changed peoples views on the whole hide and cover up the pregnancy, people are most definitely more pro life than they were 20 years ago.and i think yesterday proved that! and i think Fine gael who’s own TD’s were present at that vigil, will take notice!

          • Elise

            I certainly did read your reply, Emma – I just don’t see how the location is relevant? I was just giving examples of significant protests around the world, with far greater attendance records, which were STILL unable to change anything. That was the point I was making. I was at the anti-war march in 2003, and I remember walking along with all these thousands of other people, and feeling encouraged and at the same time, utterly powerless, because we knew that even if there had been double the number of people there, we were still unlikely to alter anything. And that was a march with an estimated one million people on the streets.

            There were many reports of people being asked to leave their home-made banners outside the vigil, and whilst I’m certainly not saying that people were ‘forced’ to hold up Youth Defence’s banners, you look at the official photos from yesterday and tell me how many home-made placards you can see compared with official ones? I think we’ll have to agree to differ on this one, but personally, I would ask why was I not allowed to exercise my right to protest with a placard containing my own views on the subject in hand? I have to say, YD’s placards are beautifully produced and look very impressive – to me the photos of the vigil just look like a crown of lemmings holding up a message they’ve been given, rather than one they would have come up with themselves.

            This extract from a recent Irish times article may give you some idea about the amounts of funding the pro-choice lobby works with:

            ‘Action on X says it raised no more than €700 last year to pay for room rental and printing costs. The organisation is an alliance of groups and individuals, including Irish Choice Network, Choice Ireland, Irish Feminist Network and Feminist Open Forum.

            One group affiliated to it, the Irish Choice Network, said it had raised €1,500 in 2011 to cover printing costs for posters and information leaflets through individual donations of less than €100. The Irish Choice Network said it had raised a further €1,400 to go towards the development of a national “abortion rights campaign”.

            Some anti-abortion groups say organisations advocating a pro-choice stance benefit from millions of euro from US philanthropist Chuck Feeney and other sources.

            Irish Council for Civil Liberties director Mark Kelly insisted Mr Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies had no say in the content of the organisation’s programmatic work.

            “They fund the ICCL because it is a wholly independent human rights watchdog. I have no idea what Chuck Feeney’s position is on abortion, and no interest in finding out,” Mr Kelly said.’

            Most pro-choice groups decided to stay away yesterday to allow you to have your say – I can see nothing wrong with deciding to take it in turns to protest. The small counter protest yesterday was organised by a group called ‘Unlike Youth Defence I trust women to decide their lives for themselves’. Not the catchiest of group names, I grant you, but they basically do what it says on the tin. They are a tiny fringe pro-choice group with no resources, run by a handful of volunteers, and they only decided to form a counter protest a few days ago. At a pro-choice vigil held in November, despite a few days organisation and no resources for free transport or marketing, there were over ten thousand people – some estimates as many as double that. I have never been to a protest where the organisers offered to transport me across half the country so I could attend.

            As for Ireland becoming more pro-life, the most recent poll on the subject, a Paddy Power/Red C poll this month found that only 8% of the 1000 people polled ‘believe no legislation at all (on X) is necessary.’ That’s not very much. Of course, you are right to suggest that this could change – but we should be legislating for the here and now, not for an imagined future that could never happen as easily as it could. It is wrong to keep repeatedly holding and ignoring referendums, as if waiting for the Irish public to return the answer you personally want, before acting to legislate. 30,000 people is a lot, but 30,000 people in Merrion Square, not matter how cold and wet the weather, does not change the fact that successive referendums have supported the findings in the X case, and the majority of Irish people support legislation in this case.

            As a final point – if you really think the weather was a factor in attendance, why don’t you hold another vigil in the summer? I agree – it would be interesting to see if there was any notable difference.

          • Mari_anne

            The reason action on X and other pro abort groups get little financial support, is because no one supports you! Take the hint will ya!

          • Elise

            Perhaps not monetarily, but the polls and referenda would indicate that people do support us. I’d take a majority vote to protect vulnerable women over all the US dollars in the world any day.

    • Katyiam

      To be honest Elise, you’re just comforting yourself! The majority of Ireland do not want abortion on demand, as you and I both know, the general population is confused with the current abortion debate. The media and your pro-choice groups are scare-mongering people into thinking our country is backwards and medieval because women are dying in here, and being denied lifesaving treatment. Hence this is where your skewed poll results come from – both a mixture of media influence and abortion advocates scaring people!! There is no appetite for abortion in Ireland, which is why pro-life groups including Youth Defence (which you and co. have weird fantasies about, that they’re scheming, women controlling, money laundering bigots) have both financial and attendance support!

      30,000 is the largest protest in Dublin so far, which is the point Emma is making, especially on a cold, January evening. This is a ‘Unite for Life’ effort, and I am under the impression since this group was established, that they do not allow any placards that can ‘distinguish’ any prolife organisation in a united pro-life vigil! So; did you see for example, “Family and Life”, “The Life Institute” or “Pro-Life Campaign” advertised anywhere that night (if you were even there)? Exactly. Or what if some ‘homemade’ placards promoted something that caused havoc or trouble or disagreement within the crowd? (i.e that “RTé is anti-Catholic’ sign”) That’s the reason why! (“Free placards” = invalid – placards are returned and reused, they’re not to be bought and brought home ;) )

      As for the “free buses” from around the country that were ‘organised by the Vigil organisers’ as ye pro-choicers are telling ye’re selves, is again, more claptrap. The buses are organised by various groups around the country! In Mayo we have a tradition of organising a bus to these pro-life events, just as another form of transport, but also to be together for the craic! And costs can vary from, guess what!? Not free, but €15 – 20 EACH and a thoughtful tip for the driver! While many drove themselves, up to 6-7 bus fulls came from Mayo, organised in Mayo, for Mayo and we all paid our way! This was done and encouraged throughout the country, by normal people like you and I, from various groups, and parish priests too! Pro-choicers in Ireland are away with thne fairies, thinking this is the reason they don’t have financial support or members! This “free transport” argument is mere bull, created by you and your friends just to make ye feel better!

  • Ciara

    There is a big difference between this vigil and the last one in December in terms of numbers 10,000 at the last one and 30,000 at this one. The pro-choice vigil got between 150 and 200 people a lot less than 30,000. I was at the pro-life vigil. It was great.

    • It was incredible turn out, more than quadrupling the numbers seen on the pro-choice side at the height of the Savita frenzy, which was covered on every major news network. I wonder if Vigil for Life will get the same kind of coverage, but I won’t hold my breath.

      So glad you were there yesterday! Hope you’ve gotten a chance to warm up a bit!

  • I spoke to two eye-witnesses last evening: they re-affirmed the Garda est. was 30,000 at 7pm with people still coming in – and the counter-demo was 30 – 50 at the most, not the 200 claimed by RTÉ! My friends saw them! Plus ca change, plus la meme chose! The more things change, the more they remain the same!

    Towards the end of the vigil they phoned Enda Kenny’s office from the podium! When the answer phone asked for a message to be left, 30,000+ people chanted, “Enda! Keep your promise!”

  • Pray for Ireland

  • SAA5of5

    What a beautiful witness! If the people of influence in Ireland are smart, they’ll think about how history will judge them, not the emotional tide coming from the exploitation of the tragic death of a pregnant mother whose life would NOT have been spared if she had obtained an abortion. They will take a serious look at the U.S. that, according to Time Magazine and others, is losing the battle over abortion. In other words, people are more and more opposed to the senseless murder of innocent, defenseless human life. After 40 years, ultrasound technology, etc., science is very clear that life begins at conception. After 40 years of women suffering from depression, thoughts of suicide, loss of esteem, poor treatment by their partners, inability to bond with future children, physical complications, etc., it’s not looking like the quick fix it was meant to be. But alas, until these countries figure out it’s costing them too much in health care, medical care, etc., they will remain unmoved.

  • girlonfire

    Gotta love those “Fightin Irish”! So proud of the turn-out and the Irish blood that runs though my veins. We will not be silent! You can count on that! Go IRISH GO!!!! Love and prayers to all who stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.

  • Jo Sturtevant

    “The Unite for Life vigil drew busloads of pro-life demonstrators from all corners of the country.”

    Sure…organized groups with US Fundy money behind them, busing people in. Not quite the same as people pouring out of their households with pitchforks, is it.

    Population of Ireland: 4,595,000
    30,000 is what percentage of that total population? 0.65%
    That’s with professional organization AND money – and also following several years of US Fundamentalist money pouring in to spread antichoice propaganda in schools, to the public, politicians, etc.

    “The pro-choice vigil got between 150 and 200 people”

    They don’t need to make a big show, especially in a traditionally-religious country where it’s often demonized. They’ll just quietly vote for increased choice. Don’t forget that the Irish rejected – twice – referendums to further restrict abortion, in 1992 and again in 2002. The anti’s make a lot of noise, but they are apparently not making significant progress in pushing Irish women and families back to the Church’s Dark Ages.

    ” I was at the pro-life vigil. It was great” see how many people were willing to prevent a woman from making her own reproductive choices and family planning. ‘

    ^ Fixed that for ye.