‘Be po­lite, and don’t get in­volved in pro­longed de­bates’

The ‘pep talk’ be­gins with a prayer and a run-through of foetal de­vel­op­ment

The Irish Times - - Home News - Harry McGee in Clon­dalkin

On a hot Satur­day morn­ing, in the car park of small mod­ern church in Bawnogue in west Dublin, a group of 10 peo­ple meet up.

The prepa­ra­tion rit­ual is a lit­tle like tog­ging out for a foot­ball game. The kit is taken out of the boot of a car. They all don their “ganseys” – scar­let vests em­bla­zoned with Save the Eighth.

The “pep talk” be­gins with a prayer led by Brian O’Flynn. He then talks the Life In­sti­tute can­vassers through the de­vel­op­ment of the foe­tus across the weeks of preg­nancy be­fore deal­ing with the pre­ferred re­sponse to any ques­tions on rape (a woman is the vic­tim but if aborted the baby be­comes the sec­ond vic­tim).

O’Flynn also tells them to be po­lite, and not to get in­volved in pro­longed de­bates with those on the other side.

An­other mem­ber of the group sprin­kles them with holy wa­ter be­fore they start mov­ing to­wards West­bourne, a newish es­tate of neat semi-Ds about a kilo­me­tre way. Be­fore reach­ing the first house they pose for a so­cial me­dia pho­to­graph. “Clon­dalkin is pro-life; proud and pro-life,” they chant in uni­son.

Is it re­ally? Well, not nu­mer­i­cally. Like the rest of Dublin, the No side will al­ways be play­ing against the wind here. This can­vass will in­volve hard work, some long con­ver­sa­tions and an un­cer­tain out­come.

There has been some feed­back from the No side that it is mak­ing head­way in Dublin, par­tic­u­larly in more tra­di­tional ar­eas with an older de­mo­graphic. But in this es­tate, with most par­ents ei­ther in their 40s or younger, it is harder work.

“I am more for a Yes vote,” a man tells the can­vassers. He is not from Ire­land and does not reveal where he’s from. “In my coun­try there is no re­stric­tion,” he in­forms them.

Chatty

When they start talk­ing about the un­born child, he sim­ply says “it is sad” and shrugs his shoul­ders.

A few doors down O’Flynn and Ruth Fo­ley have a long ex­change with David Mc­Carthy. He is pleas­ant and chatty but he has al­ready said he in­tends to vote Yes.

“It’s im­por­tant that peo­ple have a choice,” Mc­Carthy tells them. “It’s up to them to choose for them­selves. Ire­land has to change and the choice has to be

left to the in­di­vid­ual.”

O’Flynn and Fo­ley make counter-ar­gu­ments in a ten minute ex­change of views. Mc­Carthy ac­cepts the lit­er­a­ture but he re­minds them he has “def­i­nitely made my mind up”.

Un­happy

Around the cor­ner, a fa­ther in his 30s, is pleas­ant but firm.

“Un­for­tu­nately I’m go­ing the op­po­site way and will leave it to the woman to choose it for her­self,” he says.

It’s not all one-way traf­fic.

There are a fair few straight-up Nos, in­clud­ing a cou­ple orig­i­nally from the Philip­pines.

Rob­bie, a lone par­ent of a 12-year-old is clean­ing his house when they call. He says he has not thought about it too much and. He would be un­happy if he had a part­ner who had an abor­tion but at the same time he says he thinks it’s a de­ci­sion for women. He re­mains in-be­tween.

At two or three doors, moth­ers in their 30s tell can­vassers the same thing: they would not have an abor­tion them­selves but would not pre­vent any other woman from hav­ing an abor­tion. “I want peo­ple to have a choice. Per­son­ally I will vote Yes,” one says.

There is one ugly mo­ment. A young woman re­lates how a friend of hers with a fa­tal foetal ab­nor­mal­ity was forced to carry the foe­tus to term. “I think you Save the Eighth peo­ple are mon­sters,” she shouts at the can­vassers be­fore slam­ming the door rudely.

Risk

But there are brighter mo­ments for the team. A young woman, Shan­non, is walk­ing along the road with her two two young chil­dren, aged six and three.

“I was No and then I was Yes,” she tells them.

“I would never have an abor­tion my­self. I have two kids.”

She then asks: “If my daugh­ter was older and if her life was at risk would they make her die?”

She is told ab­so­lutely not, with the can­vassers say­ing that the mother’s life would be saved ahead of the un­born child if it was at risk.

Shan­non asks for the lit­er­a­ture and says she will read it again. “My part­ner and his mother are No,” she says, sig­nalling that she may be mov­ing back to No.

A small bat­tle won per­haps. But you still won­der, for all their team spirit, if O’Flynn and his col­leagues will get the re­sult they want in parts of Dublin like this.

‘‘ It’s up to them to choose for them­selves. Ire­land has to change and the choice has to be left to the in­di­vid­ual

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARA MAC DÓNAILL

Can­vass­ing for a No Vote in the ref­er­en­dum on the Eighth Amend­ment, in the West­bourne area of Clon­dalkin, Dublin.

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