YD are pro-life activists – which means we believe in actually taking some action about abortion rather than sitting about talking to the converted. This would be a mega-long history though if we set down all the daily and weekly work undertaken doing pro-life counseling, street sessions, educational drives, pickets etc, so rather than boring you with all that, let’s leave it at this: Fair play to all the volunteers for the huge commitment – the results are spectacular.
Maybe though, we’ll just to mention a few achievements in these activities for 2003 – much the same as for any year:
In January, thanks to Ryanair the company that makes everyone jetsetters, Youth Defence were seen in Rome all bleary-eyed and white and sticking out like sore thumbs after too many late nights and early mornings. It was generally agreed by the Roman population that the Irish wreck the whole manicured and tanned aesthetics of the walking traffic.
Just in case you’re interested, the Rome thing was a bash called Youth United for the transformation of Europe. It was held in response to some straight talking from the Holy Father, and members of Youth Defence went along to suss it out and do a bit of talking of our own. Amongst matters discussed was the dignity and sanctity of human life, and the importance of fighting the pro-life battle both on the streets and in the EU institutions. It gave everyone a chance to get some pretty heavy stuff off their chests, such as the future directions of the EU and how to best tackle the challenges they pose and other stuff like that.
In September the Alliance for Choice decided to hold a press conference to mark 20 years of pro-death activism, in the salubrious surroundings of the Shelbourne Hotel (where all the best socialists are to be seen). They were expecting the usual thin crowd of pro-abortion supporters, to present to a packed room of journalists eager to report on the latest attempts to dish out a little affliction to the unborn, and generally do down the foetus. But while the AFC were casting around desperately for a “biggie” on which to make a compelling call for immediate abortion –perhaps even compulsory abortion, who knows - in the end all they could come up with was a desperate plea for “Safe and legal abortion on the 20th anniversary of the 1983 referendum”.
Even then, things did not go according to plan. Things came askew when half of the audience at the conference (the better looking half – the half not containing Ivana Bacik), suddenly changed sides and became replete with pro-life convictions.
This is how it may have seemed to the unwitting observer, but in actual fact the finely chiseled youths standing directly behind the speakers’ table holding pro-life posters and making persuasive pro-life arguments were none other than Youth Defence.
“The AFC would like to ignore the will of the Irish people who over the last 20 years, have continuously supported the sanctity of human life,” said these sterling young people.“And we would have got away with it too if it wasn’t for you pesky kids,” said the ageing angry types in the AFC.“Funny stuff!” said everyone else.
2003 was sort of like the year of the conference. The Commission for Assisted Human Reproduction held a conference in Dublin Castle and members of both YD and M&C campaign attended to make representations from a pro-life perspective. What the speakers advocating embryo research got was significant opposition from conference attendees – so that was a good day’s work.
Then there was another get together by for young pro-lifers across Europe – this time held in Brussels, it provided another opportunity for Youth Defence to liaise with like minded young people from all over Europe. Since the Flemish aren’t half as vain or purdy as the Italians, we fitted in nicely.
Then we assisted the World Youth Alliance to organise a Conference on the Dignity of the Human Person which was held in Dublin in October.
Malta decided to take the plunge and join up with Europe in March and, at the request of Maltese groups who had helped us out on the Nice campaign, some of our members agreed to help out in opposing the referendum on the Nice treaty in Malta.
The baby at the centre of the 1992 case was remembered again on March 8. After mass in St. Saviour's Church we set up a candelabra in Dublin's O'Connell Street where passers by could light a candle in remembrance of Baby X.
The month of May saw the launch of a campaign exposing the Labour Party’s disregard for the unborn after they called for legislation on the ‘X’ case, which would mean the provision of abortion services in Ireland. Pickets were placed on the Labour Party headquarters and also on the home of Pat Rabbitte, the party leader, and a fairly committed pro-abort.
Youth Defence also launched a large recruitment campaign in June called the Culture of Life Project which encouraged new and existing members to partake in the fight for life. The campaign involved putting posters up in churches and colleges all over Ireland and handing out over 20,000 recruitment leaflets. It worked rather well, if we say so ourselves.
The information campaign on Assisted Human Reproduction also came into full swing with M&C organising meetings on the issue all over the country. A booklet on Early Human Life and Ethical Issues was also produced to accompany the campaign and over 100,000 copies of this booklet were distributed and another 200,000 of a more comprehensive leaflet was distributed door-to-door.
In July, the Mother & Child Campaign (M&C) launched a campaign against the funding by the EU of abortion services in Third World countries by providing funds from the EU budget to organisations that promote abortion throughout the world.
Earlier in the year the health authorities sent two young girls in their care to England to have abortions. In protest, YD mounted a picket on Health Minister Micheál Martin's clinics in Cork to send him a clear message that ordinary people do not want state-funded abortions, or any other kind of destructive acts against life, to be carried out in their name.
In August, YD and M&C members took part in the Lough Derg pilgrimage to unite in prayer against the evil of abortion and to take the opportunity to speak to others on the pilgrimage of the importance of pro-life action. It rained and the mosquitos feasted on us.
M&C and YD made submissions to the Commission on Human Reproduction, the Crisis Pregnancy Agency and to the Irish Council of Bioethics. All of these are available on our website along with other valuable documents and papers written this year.
October and November was dominated by a campaign against embryo research, in particular the vote taking place in the European Council which would sanction the funding of embryo research in the EU under the Sixth FrameWork Programme. The campaign was marked by leaflet drops, a month-long picket on the offices of Mary Harney and the Progressive Democrats, organizing to get thousands of lobbying phone calls made to Harney’s offices, and a large media campaign.
YD also organised a series of public information meetings across the country on Early Human Life and Reproductive Issues.
The contentious EU programme offered €300,000 for research into human stem cells, which would be harvested from “unwanted embryos” produced for in vitro fertilization.
An Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment briefing note dated September 11 2003 said research involving stem cells was a promising area of biotechnology which offered the prospect of developing new ways of treating serious chronic diseases.
"However, stem cell research raises ethical questions in those cases where the cells in question are derived from human embryos," it added. The briefing note said that Ireland did not consider it appropriate to object to such research being carried out in member states "where it is deemed to be both legal and ethical".
This attitude forces Irish taxpayers to fund research on human embryos in other EU states. Clearly this is a position adopted by the department without consideration of the views of the Irish people who have never approved of such measures.
On 6th November, a key Dáil committee voted to reject the European Commission proposal that EU funds be used to pay for embryo research. The Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business also agreed to ask the Tánaiste, to attend the committee and explain the Government's decision to back the EU Commission's view, which favoured funding embryo research.
On the 19th November 2003, at the European Parliament's plenary session, MEP's voted in favour of research on human embryos. However, it was the vote of the Council of Ministers on the 27th November 2003, which was to be the deciding vote. The vote was postponed until 3rd December 2003 after Portugal came up with a compromise agreement which was still unethical.
This is how the Irish MEP’s voted on Wednesday 19th November 2003.
MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon opposing the measure said this was the first time that the European Union had attempted to fund research into an area which was illegal or unconstitutional in any member state.
Lastly M&CC printed thousands of special poster to mark the Beatification of Mother Teresa. This poster and accompanying prayer card were so popular that we had to increase our print runs twice!