The Annual Commemoration of the death of Baby X takes a theme of contrast between Life and Death. Despite heavy rain the event is very effective.
YD produces a lengthy submission to the Government Green Paper on Abortion. It discusses the legal and medical implications of various solutions to the X case and argues that the most democratic and life-preserving solution for both mother and child is a properly worded pro-life referendum.
The submission includes a wording drafted by YD which has the approval of retired Justice Rory O'Hanlon, and fully explains how this wording will uphold the pro life ethos inherent in the majority of Irish people. It warns the Government against deliberately confusing the issue and claims that another referendum, such as was given in 1992 and which proposed a “limited” form of abortion, would in all certainty be rejected by the electorate.
This awareness campaign used bus and billboard advertising to explain that a satisfactory wording for a pro-life referendum existed. The campaign also included 110,000 explanatory booklets and leaflets for nationwide distribution.
Attracting widespread attention, the campaign proposed a constitutional wording that could be put to the people in a referendum to ban abortion. It raised awareness of the need for a watertight definition of the rights of the unborn in Irish law.
The First International Pro-Life Activists Conference was held in the Royal Dublin Hotel, hosted by Youth Defence. Over 800 people attended the conference, which combined articulate and entertaining speakers from all over the world with an introduction to pro-life activism. It was a cracker of a weekend. Countries represented included the US, Canada, France, Spain, Germany, England, Scotland, the Ukraine, Poland and Australia. They even all got to sing their national anthems.
Precious Life, Youth Defence's sister group in the North of Ireland open their new offices in Ballymena, Co. Antrim. They continue to grow in strength and effectiveness.
Two weeks prior to our National Roadshow, Youth Defence supporters received a letter from Superintendent Waldron of Cork which had far reaching and beneficial effects on YD’s pro-life work. The letter confirmed the existence of a memo, (dated 23rd of June 1997) circulated by the Garda Commissioner on the instruction of the DPP, stating that the display of "posters of aborted foetuses does not breach the law." Although the memo had been circulated a year previously, Gardai, who no doubt had full knowledge of the memo, continued to arrest and harass YD members. Superintendent Waldron went on to say, "I accept that certain individual Gardai have acted unwisely in dealing with protests by persons who claim that the exhibition of posters is offensive." Youth Defence expresses heartfelt gratitude to Superintendent Waldron for his courageous and honourable action. And there was great rejoicing by the plain people of Ireland.
The 8th National Roadshow was joined by pro lifers from several other countries including Finland and Spain. The effects of “The Right Words” campaign were noticeable as around the country (24 towns in total) the wording of a referendum was of serious concern to the public.
YD members launch the Schools Information Project in September 1998. It’s Ireland’s first interactive school’s program, and the kids just love it. The project has since grown every year in style and sophistication. The present edition is an interactive presentation with full colour printed images, a Flash website, and CD-Rom for those prehistoric schools who haven’t got full connectivity.Before the end of 1998 more than 50 school visits had been conducted. The demand for the presentation hasn’t dimmed since and each September, YD sends the latest version to every secondary school in the country. The poster is intended for permanent display in the classroom and is just gorgeous. It features a storybook of the growing and developing baby, with full colour photographs of the unborn baby at different stages of development. The booklet is a miniature of the poster and contains a quiz for the students to complete to foster further interest in the subject. With a quick nod to all our generous sponsors we should mention the DVD. This is the most up-to-date format for audiovisual presentation, is very cost effective and easy to use, and is the preferred replacement for videos when dealing with school projects. Our DVD incorporates a new pro-life video which uses embryoscopy to show life in the womb at the earliest stages. The video and other visual and textual information contained in the school presentation is permanently displayed on the web site for internet access by the students.
The YD UCD Society set up a stall during Freshers’ week and surprise, surprise, the world didn’t end, except for the student’s union hacks, who looked as if the sky has fallen in on them. Most students who stopped at the stall to talk about the society and/or abortion were happy to see us. Some of them joined up - which was the whole point of the thing!
YD delegate was given a tremendous welcome when he spoke at the Ontario For Life Conference in Canada, to over 500 young people aged between fourteen and twenty five. He discussed the situation in Ireland and the nature of our ongoing work here to defend life.
In light of serious developments at Westminster regarding abortion, Precious Life intensify their campaign, beginning with a March for Life in Belfast. They establish Street Information Sessions in at least two towns every week; increase targeted picketing of those responsible for abortion referrals in Northern Ireland and place special emphasis on spreading the pro-life message to young people – “Winning hearts and minds” as they say.
The Tallaght Hospital Action Committee is founded by YD members and others which distributes an explanatory leaflet to every home in Tallaght. They were contacted by hundreds of people who were shocked at the Adelaide Society's plans for their hospital and who had rang the hospital to express their abhorrence of abortion. YD supported several high profile pickets of the Tallaght Hospital organised by THAC. Following this successful campaign the Board of the Tallaght Hospital assured the public that they were not supportive of the Adelaide Society’s position.
Always ahead of the bunch, YD launched Ireland’s first pro-life website. It was decent enough for its time – a bit text heavy but that’s grand if you want to just get information - and didn’t cause too much problems even for those with a dial-up connection (most of us at that stage). The website also offered suggestions for pro-life activists, including a pre-prepared e-mail to politicians. It also included audio and video sections (cutting edge stuff in those days, honestly). In the same period our new leaflet “Why is abortion wrong?” cleared a 200,000 print in a matter of weeks with orders coming in from every part of the country.
Spokesperson, Niamh Nic Mhathuna, is invited to Paris to speak to a gathering of 1200 pro-lifers. Niamh speaks about Youth Defence's work in Ireland, and of the vision we share for a pro life future. The response was great. We didn’t even have to tell any funny stories, they just liked what we do. We built lots of positive and lasting links with pro-life organisations across the world who said that they received great hope from Ireland's pro life ethos, and expressed a desire for further co-operation and communication between pro life groups.
So we said, “why don’t we have an International Pro-life Network to facilitate mutual assistance and support.”
And they said that was a fairly cool idea.