Labour’s meltdown and the election results – what it means for the pro-life cause
The results of the European and local elections are further proof that in politics nothing is set in stone. Just when you think certain things are settled everything can change. It is important to get to the heart of what the results mean and not to overstate the pro-life political implications.
While there were some disappointing results, a significant number of new councillors were also elected who are immediately identifiable as strongly pro-life from their vocal opposition to the recent abortion legislation. This is a really encouraging development.
The Labour Party meltdown and resignation of its party leader, Eamon Gilmore, will also have far-reaching political consequences. While the primary reason for the collapse in Labour’s vote was economic, it also showed that their strident pro-abortion stance didn’t shield them in the slightest from voter anger over their promise-breaking.
Labour Party Leader Eamon Gilmore announces his resignation yesterday
The story regarding Fine Gael is quite different. While the principal driver of Fine Gael’s seat losses had to do with the economy, without question, the drop in their support was compounded by their betrayal of the pro-life movement. A number of media commentators pointed this out over the weekend. The fact that upwards of 15,000 people turned out for the recent National Vigil for Life in Dublin was a good pre-election gauge of the level of pro-life feeling around the country. Even if Fine Gael is unwilling to admit it, they know they lost tens of thousands of votes as a direct result of breaking their promise not to introduce abortion. This undoubtedly cost them numerous seats.
It is also great news that so many of the newly elected Fianna Fáil and Independent councillors are strongly pro-life. We base this on the fact that they either attended our vigils or have spoken out publicly on the issue in the recent past. Another straw in the wind was the re-election of Deputy Terence Flanagan’s brother Declan as a councillor for the Beaumont Donaghmede electoral area. Following Deputy Flanagan's expulsion from the Fine Gael parliamentary party for voting with his conscience against abortion, it is no secret that senior members of Fine Gael did all they could to scupper Declan’s chances of re-election.
There were many other hopeful results like former Minister Mary Hanafin’s victory and the election of a number of Green Party pro-life candidates. Another success story was the victory of an Independent Fine Gael candidate who had resigned from Fine Gael over abortion and came close to topping the poll in his electoral area.
And there were dramatic finishes for two of the candidates we recommended last week. One was elected by 3 votes, the other by 2. The next time someone tells you there is no point in voting, remind them of these neck and neck contests!
The fact that Senator Rónán Mullen didn’t succeed in getting elected in the Midlands North West constituency is obviously disappointing. While ‘Ming’ Flanagan’s entry into the race was a factor, it was clear from the outset that Rónán’s key problem was low ‘name recognition’ in such a massive constituency. This is something he can certainly address – as shown in the Seanad elections which he contested and won so comprehensively.
All in all, the election results are more encouraging than many expected. But a word of caution is in order – while many genuinely pro-life councillors were elected, there were others with no track record on the issue who described themselves as ‘pro-life’ simply to court votes. We must be clear in distinguishing one from the other.
The key to real progress is brutal honesty about where things stand and avoiding exaggerated claims at all costs. We need to focus on the many good results from this election and build on them. In addition to these positive outcomes, it is likely that a new politics of trustworthiness will soon emerge as members of the Oireachtas who broke ranks with their party over abortion present an alternative to the electorate.
The scale of the Labour meltdown and the speed of the political fallout remind us that a week is most definitely a long time in politics. This should be a constant encouragement to us never to give up and to stay the course until the right to life is fully protected.
Cora Sherlock is Deputy Chairperson of the Pro Life Campaign.