In 1983, aged 9 years old, I remember seeing numerous posters of smiling babies in Kerry, where my grandparents lived. All I knew is that they came from the Yes side that liked babies and that people from the No side who appeared on TV (no posters to be seen) were grim and far away in every sense from the Catholic village in which we holidayed.
I didn’t know what abortion was then, but Ireland seemed to know that it meant destroying Irish babies.
Thirty-five years later and I am back in Kerry. Nearly all the posters this time say ‘No’, but the No side this time is the pro-life side aiming to preserve Ireland’s constitutional protection of the unborn. These posters point to Britain’s horrifying abortion rate (1 abortion for every 4 born children), show ultrasound pictures of unborn children and remind voters that repeal kills. It is striking walking around Tralee and seeing, posted up along the streets, truths about my own country which remain largely hidden from our decaying culture.
Last Friday night, results begin to come in. The No campaign has been impressive, but the Yes side, with huge establishment and media support, has attracted twice as many voters. And they have voted with their eyes open, surrounded by images of the unborn and information about where this could lead.
Many of those voting for abortion voted in 2015 in favour of legalising same-sex marriage: a notion of marriage which makes no reference to children and the procreative acts from which they come. Now children, deleted from marriage, are to be literally deleted from their mothers’ wombs.
In Ireland as elsewhere, there has been a quiet acceptance of the sexual revolution alongside an embrace of consumerism, and a secularisation of a kind which ultimately ends in child sacrifice. The interior of a person is radically affected when the intimate is treated lightly and the result in the form of a new human life is lethally ‘controlled’ – at even more profound cost to the mother and father themselves than to their baby.
Sentimentality was cynically tapped by the Yes side, with narratives of women travelling to Britain much to the fore. Luxuriating in feelings detached from moral and spiritual reality leads ultimately to physical and spiritual death. No doubt many voters were also genuinely confused by their own experiences of abortion or those of their loved ones. Among the charming people I met were some presumably drawn in these ways to sign away the civil rights of babies.
The day after the result a US friend wrote to me: “Americans never chose abortion. It was imposed on them by the Supreme Court.” He went on to ask whether the Irish were suffering from the kind of complex that results in them adopting the “commands of their oppressors”.
I went to the pub in Tralee on Friday night looking for some traditional Irish music. What I got was a band playing badly Gotye’s hit “Now you’re just somebody that I used to know”.