Youth Defence. Remember them? At last weekend’s poorly attended ‘Convention for Life’ Niamh Ui Bhriain & Bernadette Smyth outlined future plans. Oireachtas Retort sits through some crappy speeches.
First off they are keen to emphasise the importance of ‘voting pro-life’. May elections will be the first concrete look at party standing since 2011 and anti-choice groups will be quick to claim the inevitable drop in government support. Niamh alleges she has 100,000 pledges not to support Fine Gael, up neatly from 80,000 the last time she boasted and don’t worry, they are all Irish voters.
In the six months run to legislation last year the Youth Defence position on abortion polled consistently around 10% across all polls. The largest drop in Fine Gael support to date was in the two weeks following news of Savita Halappanavar’s death while Enda Kenny and James Reilly dithered before a convulsed nation. As I have documented before, despite the gravest warnings, Fine Gael’s rating remained largely static throughout the time and actually went up after the vote but reality means nothing to these people.
Next is a possible legal challenge to the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act and they are awaiting publication of the HSE guidelines she says. I doubt any piece of legislation received such scrutiny before passing but Youth Defence know best. Considering it was anti- choice legal genius which gave us the X Case to begin with, it will be interesting to see how eager they are to get the constitutional ball rolling again.
Something Niamh was particularly foaming about was a new “major campaign” targeting Irish Times advertisers. Unperturbed by last year’s failure to “flex our pro-life muscle” the impact of such a campaign remains to be seen but I have no doubt that the Irish Times will only be flattered to be singled out as responsible for so much of Youth Defence’s woes.
There was also talk of continuing to “build their own pro-life media platforms”. Whether this extends beyond posting articles from America for their American followers on facebook is anyone’s guess.
Up north meanwhile, Bernadette Smyth is not happy. In a speech that swung between fire, brimstone and self-praise, Sinn Féin were singled out for particular opprobrium after scuttling last year’s attempt to close Marie Stopes in Belfast. Bernadette was particularly keen to get the numbers out for July’s Rally for Life in Belfast and urged attendees “not to be distracted by other, minor pro-life events”. I wonder who she could be referring too?