Controlling the Future
As Orwell pointed out in 1984, he who controls the past controls the future. The Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole is rather good at putting his own spin on past events, confident that his own version will come to be accepted as the unvarnished truth. At this time, when the anti-life movement are pushing hard for the removal of the Eighth Amendment, they have a valuable advocate in Mr O’Toole.
In a recent article he outlines the early history of the Pro-Life Amendment Campaign, relying heavily on Tom Hesketh’s , The Second Partitioning of Ireland? which he quite rightly describes as a “fine history”. He also states that it was “written from a pro-life point of view”, which is quite untrue. The rather brilliant cover illustration by John R. Greene—of an unborn child at an early stage of gestation, enveloped by a large question mark— might lead one to suppose this is a polemical work, but that is far from the case. The Second Partitioning in fact stems from Dr Hesketh’s doctoral thesis at Queen’s University, Belfast, and is scrupulously impartial. How anything pro-life could be regarded as “fine” in O’Toole’s worldview is a mystery to me.
The Pro-Life Amendment Campaign were remarkably open and frank. After their Amendment victory, they had no hesitation in handing over the minutes of their meetings to Tom Hesketh—even though the record show them to have been an extremely fractious body. The Anti-Amendment Campaign, by contrast, flatly refused to do the same. One can only speculate that they may have had a great deal to hide, as they always insisted during the campaign that they were not a pro-abortion outfit, but merely opposed to the Amendment wording.
O’Toole makes much of the fact that the 13 founding organisations of PLAC were all strongly Catholic, branding the campaign as “sectarian”. He wrongly states that all the Protestant churches opposed the Amendment. In fact, the Evangelical Presbyterians were in favour of it; one of their ministers, Rev. Sydney Garland, was chairman of Life in Northern Ireland. Rev. Garland remarked that the Protestant church leaders were not only unrepresentative of Protestant opinion, but more influenced by secularism than by Biblical Christianity. Rev. Cecil Kerr of the Christian Renewal Centre in Rostrevor strongly defended the Amendment in the Church of Ireland Gazette. It’s all there in The Second Partitioning.
O’Toole must know perfectly well that some of the most effective pro-lifers worldwide are in fact American Protestants, and that a shamefully large proportion of American Catholics vote for pro-aborts such as Obama and the Clintons. He must also know that plenty of Northern Protestants are strongly pro-life. Yet he purports to show—at least to the kind of people who take everything they read in the Irish Times as gospel—that supporters of the Amendment were just a bunch of bigoted sectarian Catholic thickos. He reserves particular scorn for John O’Reilly, Bernadette Bonar and Loretto Browne, three of the people responsible for rescuing PLAC from the strong possibility of defeat, by getting Senator Des Hanafin to take the helm of the campaign.
O’Toole uses language as an octopus uses ink—to confuse and conceal. He savages Mrs Bonar for pointing out that pro-abort propagandists were turning up at TDs’ clinics with sob stories about 12-year-olds being raped. She wasn’t making that up: she got that information from her brother Tom O’Donnell, who happened to be a Fine Gael TD.
O’Toole gets some of what he no doubt regards as his most damning quotes from a meeting in 1982 he attended as a young reporter (I think in Clane, Co. Kildare) on behalf of the magazine In Dublin. I happened to be there as well. It was addressed by both Loretto Browne and Bernadette Bonar. My chief memory of it is O’Toole’s halibut-like expression when Loretto handed him a snack called an Easy Single, remarking “There you are, Fintan; just right for In Dublin.” In his report of the meeting he referred disapprovingly to the gory pictures on display—a disapproval directed not at those responsible for dismembering the infants, but at SPUC for showing what actually happens in an abortion.
These pro-aborts fear the truth like bats fear the light.