Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The day after

I was surprised when I woke to overcast skies on May 26th . There had been a red sky the night before, something that never once in my experience had failed to produce sunshine the following day. And then I remembered the exit polls from the evening before, predicting Ireland had voted two to one to repeal the Eighth. The grey skies seemed more fitting. I was tempted to wonder if it was a sign that heaven was frowning down upon us … but decided that might be a bit fanciful.

I had a month's mind of a relative to go to in Portlaoise that morning. As I drove along from 'Comer, going by way of the Swan and Timahoe, I wondered if the exit polls could be mistaken. I switched on the radio. Counting had begun. And as boxes all over the country were opened they showed it was no mistake. It was going to be a landslide.

The Gospel at Mass was from St Mark. The disciples were trying to stop people from bringing children to our Lord so that he might bless them. And Jesus was displeased and said to them 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the Kingdom of God.' And, of course, given the day that was in it hearing those words wrenched at my heart. You really can't make this sort of thing up.

In the car afterwards I switched the radio back on. Some of the count centres had reached the final tally and announced that those constituencies had voted overwhelmingly in favour of repeal. The cheers from the crowds in the background were like a punch in the gut. I know they weren't cheering abortion; they were expressing their delight and conviction that Ireland was now a better place. But if this wasn't the result you wanted or expected, if you didn't believe this heralded a better future, then it was hard not to see it the other way.

The big vote in favour of repeal had the radio commentators claiming it gave a clear mandate to the government to introduce the legislation they had been talking about, abortion on demand up to 12 weeks. I'm not so sure. One elderly woman I was talking to told me she had voted 'yes' so that women could have a termination when they really needed one, but she didn't want it abused for abortions when both the mother and baby were fine.
'That would be sinful,' she said.

So maybe the government will have to tone down the legislation. Things may not be not be as bleak as they first seemed. But then again back home as I sat down to my dinner, suddenly the skies opened and the rain began to pour down.

'Where did that come from?' said my wife. 'That wasn't in the forecast.'

Perhaps they are tears from heaven, I thought. But I said nothing. I didn't want to seem too fanciful.

published in the Kilkenny Reporter, 6 June 2018 

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