After the wreckage of the abortion vote, Ireland’s young, vibrant Church is ready to keep going

By now, nearly everyone has heard the devastating results of the abortion referendum in Ireland. 

On May 25th, the Irish people voted to repeal the country’s only protection for unborn children within their Constitution — the 8th Amendment. Everyone knew it was a real possibility, especially in 2018, that Ireland would vote for abortion, but we lived in hope, thinking the Irish might be the ones not to conform to the world’s abortion regime. 

Unfortunately, the 8th amendment was repealed by a landslide vote — 66.4% yes, 33.6% no.

After losing a battle like this, especially one where so many innocent lives are now in jeopardy, the following days are spent in a daze — reflecting, praying, trying to make sense of what just happened. 

Could we have done more? Could we have done things differently? Is there any hope for Ireland or for our world, or has the world just become so secularized? 

After some time to reflect, I can say with great confidence that we did everything we could, and I’m beginning to find glimmers of hope in the wreckage of the vote.

I know it’s difficult to talk about success or hope when you’ve just witnessed a massive failure, but I think there’s more to this vote than meets the eye — and that gives me great hope for the world and for the Church.

The Irish pro-life movement had everything stacked against it — the media, politicians, Google, money. But while all the odds favored the YES campaign, the NO side put up an incredible fight. We were neck-and-neck with the YES side throughout the entire campaign.

This referendum is good for the future of Ireland because it separates the sheep from the goats. The debate over abortion was so intense and divisive that you had to be steadfast and courageous if you spoke out at all. 

Ireland felt like a war zone, a great battle between good and evil — and it took a tremendous amount of courage to stand up for life, but so many people did. God raised up a mighty army through this campaign and that army isn’t going anywhere.

The vote also brought Ireland’s pro-life laws and their excellent record of maternal healthcare into the spotlight, and forced the world to talk about it. 

Since 1983, the 8th Amendment protected the life of every unborn child from the moment of conception and prohibited abortion in Ireland. This was in place for over 35 years, and it’s important to note that the 8th amendment saved hundreds of thousands of lives, making Ireland one of the safest places in the world for women to have a child. 

While the Irish government and YES campaigners tried to spin stories of women dying, allegedly because of the 8th Amendment, the truth always remained — Ireland’s 8th Amendment was good for mothers and their babies. 

The Irish people kept abortion out of their country for the past 35 years and that’s something to be applauded.

It’s also critical to remember that the 8th Amendment did not create a right to life for the unborn child – it merely acknowledged that such a right exists, has always existed and will always exist. This is something that, as Americans, we should take to heart as well. We don’t need a law in place to create the right to life of the unborn child. This right exists, and we must do everything in our power to protect and promote that right.

Over the past few weeks, I haven’t been able to get St. John Paul II’s quote, “We are an Easter people, and Hallelujah is our song” out of my head. 

At first I was annoyed by it, but it’s actually quite poignant for this moment in time. It took the crucifixion in order for us to see the resurrection, just like we have to experience this darkness in order to come to the light.

One of the greatest, most inspiring things coming out of this referendum is the small, yet vibrant young Church. They are not the future of the pro-life cause and of the Church — they are the now. 

This dedicated group of young people has worked to keep abortion out of Ireland since 1992. Throughout this entire campaign, they spent their nights and weekends going door-to-door, canvassing, passing out leaflets in city centers, putting up posters — every waking hour they had outside of work and school, they fought for the unborn. 

These young people took weeks off of work to participate in the Vote No Roadshow. They fearlessly catechized the public (including priests and religious) where the Church remained silent or fell short. 

It is hard to be a young Catholic in the Church in Ireland, when 15,000 daily communicants voted for abortion in the referendum and 30% of regular Mass attendees did the same.

While the young Church in Ireland may be small, they are vibrant, passionate and faithful. And they are a witness to Ireland and to the rest of the world. 

These young people are not the future of the Church, they are the reason the Church is still alive — and why the Church in Ireland and abroad will survive. 

They are the reason I have hope.

Kate Bryan lived in Ireland during the recent abortion referendum and holds a Master’s from the Dublin Institute of Technology in Public Affairs and Political Communications. You can find more of her writings at: katembryan.com or on Twitter: @katembryan