A Year Has Passed: the first anniversary of the referendum on the Right to Life

25 May 2019

A pastoral message by Bishop Kevin Doran and Father Dermot Meehan of the Council for Life of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference

Today marks the first anniversary of the referendum which led to the legalisation of abortion in Ireland.  In marking this anniversary, we reaffirm our belief in the fundamental dignity and right to life of every human being from conception to natural death.  This is not simply a matter of faith, it is what reason and common sense suggests.

There remains a real sadness that the majority of Irish people, for a variety of reasons, said “yes” to abortion” if not for themselves, then at least as an option for others.  We believe that there are many who voted “yes” with a certain ambivalence and who may now not be entirely happy with their choice.  

Alongside the sadness – and much more significant – is the sense of gratitude that so many people in our society remain committed to the Gospel of Life.  The challenge now remains for us, in these changed circumstances, to find new and more effective ways to serve life and to bear witness to the essential goodness and beauty of every life.  This is the mission of the new Council for Life established by the Irish Catholic Bishops, but it is a mission that we share with all who recognise the right to life, believers and non-believers alike.  God, the Creator of all life, constantly offers us an invitation to conversion of heart, an invitation to turn back to or embrace more fully his Gospel of Life, and He reassures us that there is no limit to His love and mercy.

We encourage all Catholics – irrespective of how they voted – to devote some time today and over this weekend to prayerful reflection about what has happened in our society, especially in the past year.

There are many ways in which we could direct our prayer.  We can pray:

  • for the gifts of Wisdom, Right Judgement and Courage which come from the Holy Spirit
  • for parents who are expecting the birth of a child under difficult circumstances
  • for women who, either in recent months or even many years ago, have had an abortion
  • for doctors and nurses, not only those who generously and unambiguously serve life, but also those who are actively engaged in providing abortion
  • and for all elected representatives whatever their personal or political convictions

Our proclamation of the Gospel of life and our witnessing to it in action always begin in prayer to God who is the giver of life and who calls us to cherish its every moment.

A Prayer – Yes to Life

Lord we thank you for the wonderful gift of life!

It is always an amazing mystery for us

to know that you have created us in your image and likeness.

Help us to recognise the beauty of every human life,

To proclaim every day, with words and deeds

An unequivocal Yes to life

Even in the most extreme frailty and every condition or stage of life.

Remove from us the pressure of a throwaway culture,

so that all may come to know and understand

the wonder and uniqueness of life

announced within the womb of every woman;

so that every child can feel loved and embraced

by the tenderness and loving care of the Father

through our hands.

Give us, Lord, the hope to know

within the depth of our hearts

that anguish shall be transformed into joy,

and every tear will be wiped away,

in the fullness of the beatific vision with you.

(Prayer used at the International Meeting “Yes to Life” hosted by the Dicastery for the Family, Laity and Life, at the Vatican, May 2019)


  • Bishop Kevin Doran is Bishop of Elphin. Bishop Doran is chair of the Council for Life and Father Dermot Meehan is Diocesan Administrator of Achonry and a member of the Council.
  • The Council for Life is an initiative of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference and its objective is to promote the Church’s teaching on the dignity and value of every human life from conception to natural end.  The role of the Council is to advise and advocate for the Church in Ireland on a consistent ethic of life and care for those most at risk.

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