American pro-life activists met with Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden. Following the meeting about 20 people gathered with posters outside the consulate to draw attention to the referendum happening in Ireland.

Though they don’t have a vote in Ireland’s abortion referendum on May 25, a group of pro-life activists in New York made their thoughts on the issue known on Monday during a meeting with Irish Consul General Ciaran Madden at the Irish Consulate, and at a rally outside the consulate building on Park Avenue.

The sit down with Madden, also attended by Deputy Consul General Anna McGillicuddy, was requested by the group Irish Pro-Life USA which was founded earlier this year by John Aidan Byrne, a journalist and native of Ardee, Co. Louth who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1980s. 

Read more: Irish Americans are taking sides in Ireland’s abortion vote

Byrne told the Irish Voice at a post-rally gathering at O’Lunney’s that a “large number” of U.S.-based Irish and Irish Americans are pro-life, and that their influence could help sway the May 25 referendum that seeks to repeal Ireland’s Eighth Amendment which prohibits abortion.

“If the Irish repeal the amendment they will implement very radical abortion laws. It will be abortion on demand, just like what you have in New York. Is that what Ireland really wants or needs? We don’t think so,” Byrne said.

The group of five who met with Madden and McGillicuddy delivered statements outlining their shared position.  Afterwards they issued a joint statement which said, “As Irish citizens and friends of Ireland abroad, we urge the people of Ireland to vote no to the repeal of the Eighth Amendment in the referendum on May 25 in Ireland. The Irish and our friends in America have seen the horrible destruction of legalized abortion nationwide, especially since the 1973 Roe v Wade decision by the Supreme Court, which has resulted in well over 54 million abortions nationwide.

John Aidan Byrne, Marcella Taggart, Chris Slattery, Steven Aden and Dr. Patrick McSharry prior to their meeting at the Irish Consulate.

John Aidan Byrne, Marcella Taggart, Chris Slattery, Steven Aden and Dr. Patrick McSharry prior to their meeting at the Irish Consulate.

“We, citizens and friends of Ireland, fervently hope the people of Ireland will continue the long standing Irish tradition of defending and protecting life and the most vulnerable, from the moment of conception. Do not make the same tragic mistake as the United States by legalizing abortion. Please save the Eighth Amendment and the last legal protection for the unborn in Ireland as enshrined in the nation’s constitution. Vote no on May 25.”

After the meeting about 20 people gathered with posters outside the consulate to draw attention to the referendum happening in Ireland.  A reception was then held at O’Lunney’s on West 45th Street which was hosted by proprietor and pro-life advocate Hugh O’Lunney.

Read more: Abortion worse than rape, says bishop

Byrne, the father of four grown children, was always pro-life but not hugely active in the cause. But watching the debate unfold in Ireland, which he visits every year, made him angry enough to take action.

“I thought that we could make a difference from over here,” he said.  “We all know people at home, family and friends, and we can use our voices to educate them about the horror of abortion over here and how that shouldn’t be a reality in Ireland too. With God’s grace, Irish people will vote no to abortion on demand.”

Marcella Taggart is a Dublin-born nurse living in New York whose first child was born with spina bifida.  Her obstetrician discovered the abnormality when she was 20 weeks pregnant and urged her and her husband to seek an abortion, she recalled.

“He painted a very negative picture. It was one of the worst days of our lives,” Taggart recalled.

She and her husband never considered abortion.  Their daughter Rebecca was born 23 years ago and is “the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Taggart said.  Rebecca attends college, drives and is involved in many different activities.

“She is a sign to other people. She’s made a difference in many people’s lives,” Taggart added.

The Virginia-based group Americans United for Life was also represented at Monday’s Irish event by Steven H. Aden, who chastised Bono and U2 for tweeting support for repeal of the Eighth Amendment.

“I said God forgive Bono, he knows not what he does,” Aden said. 

Irish American Chris Slattery, who recently returned from a trip to Ireland to campaign for a no vote, is the founder and CEO of Expectant Mother Care in New York, a group that urges pregnant woman to consider other options besides abortion.   Slattery said that the pro-life movement has to be more than just outlawing abortion, especially in Ireland.

“We have to reach women before they think of going to England for abortion. We can’t put 100 percent of our efforts into just trying to outlaw abortion … we have to be Good Samaritans.  We have to be there for the mother,” he said.

Pregnancy outside of marriage, Slattery said “is always going to happen.  Just remember, Jesus said the poor will always be with you. He didn’t say the fornicators will always be with you but it’s the same thing.”

Byrne fears that if the Eighth Amendment is removed from the Irish Constitution, abortion will become commonplace in Ireland far beyond the 12-week limit that is currently being proposed.

“We don’t accept that. Such limitations could be removed at any time by future governments in Ireland or challenged in the courts,” he said.

“The coming referendum will have profound consequences for all of us, all over the world and in Ireland especially.  We have seen the damage abortion has done to society in the U.S. At the beginning it masquerades as compassion but becomes an industry which extinguishes wonderful, beautiful lives.”

Read more: Together for Yes: Saoirse Ronan and Cillian Murphy voice support for Repealing the Eight