Take me home country roads

The Anti-Amendment Campaign was touring the heartland. Monday was Mullingar and the rest of the week would include Birr, Tullamore, Carrick-on-Shannon. The Campaign was even going to visit Boyle, the very home of PLAC and SPUC. The Campaign was travelling in a mini bus. One of the blokes was wearing an earring in each ear.


Just before eight o'clock on Monday June 20 the people of Mullingar, about 60 of them, began to arrive at the meeting. It seemed from their age and general demeanour that the tide had turned in the affairs of the amendment. They looked like people from the opposite side. Now if these were attending an Anti-Amendment meeting in Mullingar then this reporter could safely go back to Dublin and announce that the amendment would be defeated.

Two speakers from the Anti-Amendment bandwagon spoke and they were well received. There was even applause. The collection of money seemed to go well too. When this had finished a member of the audience wanted to know if there were going to be the promised local speakers. The chairman's face fell and he said they couldn't get anyone. With that a man in the audience went up to the platform. He announced that his name was Dr Flynn and he wouldn't like anyone to think that there was no support for the anti-amendment movement in Mullingar.

Members of the audience began to speak. One woman, who had written down in longhand every word spoken from the platform, announced that she was "pro-life". One speaker was a student from Maynooth and told us that in Maynooth he had been forbidden to set up an anti-amendment group. He was forced to call it the Law Reform Action Group. He was against the amendment, as was a woman sitting behind him, as was a nurse who had worked in Scotland, as was another woman who said she was a member of SPUC but was still against the amendment.

But the rest of the speakers, one and all, who had come to the anti-amendment meeting in Mullingar, were in fact in favour of the amendment. They were all "pro-life". "Abortion is the direct killing of a human being", they said. Or: "Contraception has been dragged into this debate. This amendment has nothing to do with contraception." Or: "I would plead with you to save the unborn baby." Or: "We are lucky to be given a chance to vote on this amendment." Or: "Where's the proof that these threats to the mother will happen." Or: "I'd take Dr Courteney's word before I'd take Garret FitzGerald's." Or: "We're 98 percent Catholics and we want Catholic laws. If the Holy Father says abortion is evil, it's evil."

The debate in Mullingar, if you can call it that, was polite and well-conducted. But the heartland remains true to itself. The amendment seems as safe as houses in Mullingar.