Vigil expertly stage-managed but perhaps overproduced
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The event may have been a masterclass in how to stage a demonstration, but it lacked spontaneity
Wow! Now that’s the way to organise a vigil.
Saturday evening in Dublin delivered a masterclass in how to stage a demonstration.
The “Unite for Life” vigil was stunning in its planning and execution. It left all other such events – and there has been no shortage of rallies around Merrion Square down through the years – in the shade.
The farmers, the students, the teachers, the anti-war protesters, the squeezed taxpayers, the angry pensioners, the anti-austerity marchers . . . this production relegated them to the ha’penny place.
But some things never change. There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and the gross overestimation of crowd turnout by protest organisers.
Eoghan de Faoite of Youth Defence, who was MC for the proceedings, informed the cheering masses that the gardaí had just told them 25,000 people were in attendance. By the end of the rally, that figure – according to one speaker – had risen to 30,000.
The organisers of the recent vigil for Savita Halappanavar were similarly generous with their figures. Saturday’s crowd was roughly similar in size. In the ratings PR battle for turnout, the honours are even.
But 25,000? It was reported everywhere. Garda numbers, apparently. Were they at the same gig?
We walked the course. It was an impressive crowd – stretching the length of one side of Merrion Square. But it didn’t go around the corner and traffic moved freely along the road at the far end.
There was a rock-concert atmosphere about the place before the vigil began. Hundreds of stewards marshalled the good-humoured crowd as music blared from the speakers. More than 100 free buses had been laid on around the country to take people to the vigil.
This wasn’t back-of-the-lorry territory. A proper stage had been erected, with a sound mixing desk next to it. A huge articulated truck, emblazoned with the livery of Horse Racing Ireland, was parked to one side. It carried a huge screen called a Jumbotron. This is usually seen at race courses so punters can follow the action from a distance. A second, slightly smaller Jumbotron had been set up midway down the street.
The concert vibe continued with the corral at the head of the crowd – a sort of anti- abortion mosh pit. This was disproportionately populated by young people. Political parties do this all the time. They like to push their photogenic youth in front of the cameras whenever possible.
A “sterile zone” ran along one side of the square, giving clear access to people who needed to move quickly through the crowd.
There seemed to be a hierarchy among the legions of high-vis vests. The main stewarding and security duties were done by men and women with “Frontline Security” and “Frontline Steward” on their bibs, some wearing microphones and earpieces, others carrying walkie-talkies. Then there were volunteers with “Sign the Pro-Life Pledge” written on the back of their vests. Others wore fluorescent vests with smiley faces on the front. Youth Defence members wore bright yellow hoodies bearing the message “Because Life is a Right, Not a Privilege”.
A barrier was placed across the road at the other end, presumably to stop people wandering into the path of oncoming traffic. But it also gave the stewards a chance to police those joining the vigil. Home-made placards and banners were not allowed into the demonstration.
A small group of disgruntled men stood outside the barrier. Forbidden signs which they were carrying included some large “Abortion Kills” placards, along with one reading “Which of your grandchildren will be a Fine Gael baby?”, and another saying “men abandon, women abort, State abrogates – thou shalt not kill”.
We asked why, given it was a public protest, people were not allowed to join in with their own banners. “There are four or five signs that have been agreed, and it’s been agreed by the right-to-life committee and that’s it. There are no unauthorised signs allowed,” said the steward, who declined to give his name.
Inside the barrier, in two small marquees, volunteers handed out thousands of candles in paper holders and distributed placards and pledge packs. There were stacks upon stacks of high-quality glossy posters and people were urged to take one.
The pledge pack contained five leaflets and a prepaid envelope, addressed to the Life Institute. One leaflet began: “If Fine Gael legalise abortion and break the pro-life promise it made in election 2011, I pledge the party will never get my vote again.”
The posters had two main themes. The first was “Love them Both” and featured a mother cuddling a baby, and the second was aimed squarely at Fine Gael. It made for a very impressive display when the protesters held them in the air. “Raise your banners and point to the cherry picker,” Eoghan de Faoite urged them, pointing to the camera overhead.
Niamh Uí Bhriain of the Life Institute got a huge ovation when she spoke. “Hello Dublin and every other country that’s here today!” she began, adding to the showbizzy feel.
“We are the pro-life majority and we will not accept abortion – not now, not ever, not in our country and not in our name.”
When the crowd finally dispersed, the buses were lined up and waiting. An impressive evening’s work, brilliantly orchestrated and clearly lavishly resourced. But perhaps overproduced: all the money in the world can’t buy edge or spontaneity.
Tag Archives: church aspergers
Broken enough that I have a Teacher, paid by the dept of education who works in the school my children attend, which is patron by the catholic archdioceses of Dublin, threatening my 11 year old son who has Aspergers , with punishment homework to get him to bring in a document which does not exist and to get me to fill in a form to disclose information about my son and my family to the local parish which the school can not disclose due to it’s own data protection policy.
I reckon that is pretty broken.
The form arrive home on the 07/09/2009, it was from the local catholic parish office and distributed in the school by the teacher to all the children in 6th class. The form asks for a number of details which are needed which are to be entered in the parishes’ own Confirmation Register, Name, address, phone number, date of birth, date of baptism, where the baptism took place, mother’s first name and maiden surname, father’s name as on birth cert.
Now first of I thought well none of this applies to my child he’s not a christian he must have just been given a form like the rest of the class but nope. My son’s name was written on the top right of the form and there was a note form the teacher hand written in red pen on the bottom stating:
“Even tough (name of my son) is not being confirmed the church is requesting details for all children so if you wouldn’t mind filling in the relevant info”.
Hell yes I mind, and the teacher had marked date of baptism and where the baptism took place as not applicable (N/A) but asterisked all the other fields of the form for me to fill in. So not impressed that a religious organisation I am not a member of wants to start a file on my son and my family I questioned the school secretary on it and was told that I need not fill it in and not to worry about it.
Que yesterday at homework time I find a note written in my son’s homework journal requesting the form and my son was upset as he was worried that he would get punishment work if he did not have the form in, so upset it took a half of talking him down.
So I took the time to write a letter to his (new) teacher explaining that he is not baptised, that the church has no right to start a record on him and that the matter had been cleared with the school secretary and requesting no more notes or threats of punishment work about the form or baptismal cert and hoped that would be the end of it.
Today my son comes home to say the Deputy headmaster had come into his class room looking for the forms and pulled my son out of class to ask him about it, all of which had my son upset and in a panic, he did tell the deputy headmaster that he is not baptised, will not be making his confirmation and that I had spoken to the school secretary and was told that I need not fill out the form.All of which he related to me (when he got home as he is on half day) upset, confused and wondering what he had done ‘wrong’. Blessed child had not done a damn thing wrong what so ever.
That is two days in a row my child has come home from school upset and stressed over this matter and I am having to deal with the fall out. It is not as if the school which he has been enrolled in for the seven years is not aware that he is not baptised, they had that entered in their records from the day I put his name down to be enrolled in the school. It is not as if the school are unaware of the fact he has Aspergers, as they were the referral to the child and family clinic and he has learning support in place. It is not as if the school has had plenty of children currently and over the years enrolled who are not catholic but yet they seem to have no system in place to pass that information on to the teachers so that those children are not needlessly singled out.
The school in every other aspect has been wonderful and supportive of both my children,
it is close enough for them to walk to, the class sizes are good, the staff in general are wonderful but there are still times when I wish there had of been an Educate Together school close enough to send them too.
As for trying to resolve this matter and so that my son feels school is fair I have a 9:05am meeting with the deputy head tomorrow morning and if needs be I will go to the board of management which will be interesting considering the local parish priest is the head of it as it is one of the 92% of primary schools which due to the patronage system has the majority of ‘local’ primary school being paid for by the state but on church lands and run according to church rules and cannon law which seems to include using the school and it’s teachers to gather personal data on non church members.