“It’s always a scorcher, so bring a hat,” advised the website — and my Irish friend — as I prepared to travel to Ireland for my first (but their tenth) All Ireland Rally for Life. Alas, this year the weather didn’t live up to the billing!
Time for a change, decided the Lord. As people began to gather, the heavens opened. Undeterred, the rally set off through Belfast, led by a colourful double-decker pro-life bus. As marchers waved huge flags and held aloft banners, onlookers seemed largely approving, or neutral, with none of the bafflement that greets pro-life efforts in mainland UK.
The one rude gesture was more than made up for by a young man with special needs who stood at the kerbside, clapping with whole-hearted enthusiasm.
The police presence was high, perhaps because the abortion campaigners had held a rally earlier, unfortunately choosing to gather outside the church where the Rally for Life Mass was being held. They were a “gloomy, hostile bunch of people” I was told, but happily their march also went off peacefully.
Back in the square after our own wet but joyful march, the atmosphere was electric, with the sun breaking through to welcome the speakers, including Fionnuala McArdle, whose baby girl, Meabh, born within the legal limit for an abortion over here at just 23 weeks’ gestation, with a one per cent chance of survival, is now nearly nine months old.
More speakers and more music followed… and more rain. But with the mounting pressure on Stormont and the Dáil to legalise the abortion of disabled babies, we should thank God for the rain: when it comes to pro-life events, it’s well-known that the worse the weather, the greater the impact! So who knows what new growth the Holy Spirit will bring from the damp but fertile soil of the All Ireland Rally for Life 2016?