Dónal O’Sullivan-Latchford is based in Dublin and worked as an international tennis official before becoming involved in Catholic media in Ireland, where he helped with the startup of several Christian radio stations, in particular, as Head of News, and as a presenter/interviewer and programmer. As well as assisting EWTN Ireland, Dónal edits the online publication Faith in the Media and Media Report, which is the print publication of the Family and Media Association (FMA), a Saint John Paul II-inspired group set up as a think tank to analyse and monitor the Irish media for anti-Catholic bias.
The 2017 All Ireland Rally for Life, which took place in Dublin on July 1, exceeded all expectations in what organizers here were quick to dub “an amazing day.”
Speaking to EWTN News Ireland shortly afterwards, event organizer Niamh Uí Bhriain from The Life Institute said, “It was just such an amazing day, amazing to see tens of thousands of people out to save the Eighth (pro-life) Amendment and to send a really strong message to (Taoiseach/Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar that the Irish people, the pro-life majority have awoken and they have arisen and they are going to save the Eighth Amendment because we have to provide a better answer than abortion for mothers and babies.”
“This is the real Citizens' Assembly,” she said, echoing the comments she had made earlier to the large pro-life crowd, which had taken two hours to travel no more than three kilometres through Dublin’s historic city centre.
“This is not like a handpicked outfit, you know, put together to get a preordained outcome,” a reference both to the fact that the 100-strong so-called ‘Citizens' Assembly’ created by the Irish Government with the help of a polling company did not contain any representatives from ten of the twenty-six counties it was selected to represent, and to the fact that its subsequent pro-abortion recommendations, which were formally published two days before the event, went far beyond what polls, here, suggest the Irish people would be willing to approve.
By contrast, the Life Institute’s spokesperson said, “This is the people, the Irish people standing up and saying 'No' to abortion and 'Yes' to Life. It's an incredible day!”
“We were expecting 50,000,” Ms. Uí Bhriain said, “but as the Rally moved through Dublin city, up to 80,000 people brought the city to a standstill as they joined in, to save the Eighth.”
Another of the event's organizers, Precious Life, echoed Ms. Uí Bhriain's comments about the “amazing” crowd which, they said, was just “too massive to ignore.”
Their founder, Bernie Smyth said that people were “really excited and ready to take it on to the next level” and that they were very hungry for more prayer, “uniting God's power with manpower!”
The Rally, itself, which took place on the Feast of Irish martyred Archbishop of Armagh, Saint Oliver Plunkett was preceded by the praying of the Rosary and Mass for the Protection of Life, celebrated by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, in the nearby St. Saviour's Church on Dominick Street.
“We are here this afternoon to pray and to invoke the healing power of Jesus Christ on our society,” he said. “We come to invoke for our society a message of life, a message of life in our times, which will reflect the truth of the creator of life.”
In another example of exceeded expectations, the Dominican church of St. Saviour’s ran out of consecrated Hosts. The Archbishop responded by reciting a prayer of Spiritual Communion for those who had been unable to receive.
And, on a day when clouds constantly threatened the city, most notably as people filed out of the church, the subsequent march proceeded with very little sign of rain to dampen the generally positive mood which often broke into a carnival atmosphere. As well as the clouds, another dark presence, in the literal sense, was that of a relatively small gathering of pro abortion advocates who lined the route, at one point, and chanted obscene slogans.
Their predominantly grey and black clothing was in stark contrast to the generally bright colours on display in the Rally for Life.
Also in contrast was their brief but intense hostility, which perhaps served as an icon for the Beatitudinal sufferings that people of Faith have to endure, only for a time, before they reach their ultimate Goal.
Several speakers, well-known in an Irish context, addressed the crowd as it began to arrive in Dublin’s Merrion Square, among them, Declan Ganley who said, “there is not one thing in this world that is made better by the snuffing out of an unborn child.”
A number of elected political representatives also delivered quick words of encouragement.
But, the loudest cheer was reserved for Dr. Karen Gaffney, the leading international advocate for people with Down Syndrome who urged the crowd to save the Eighth to protect the right to life of “people like me” and warned that in other countries, aggressive screening programs meant that up to 100% of people with Down Syndrome were being aborted.
“We want to belong, don’t screen us out.” she said.
Looking back, now, organizer, Bernie Smyth says that this was “a tremendous day for life.”
“Overall,” she thinks, “the event has ignited a new wave of enthusiasm in the pro-life movement” and that Ireland is still a “beacon of light and hope” for the world!
Photos by Dónal O'Sullivan-Latchford:
Photos courtesy of All Ireland Rally for Life: