Sunshine and sadness on our walk of life

By Moira Billinge

There was a record-breaking temperature for this year’s Right To Life sponsored walk in the Ribble Valley. Participants have previously become accustomed to waterproof clothing and muddy shoes but on this occasion sun hats and sun cream were the order of the day.

Among our special guests on 28 May were Lord David Alton of Liverpool and the wonderfully entertaining comedian Jimmy Cricket. Archbishop Emeritus Patrick Kelly, meanwhile, had fully intended to take part in the walk, but unfortunately had to pull out beforehand.

Monsignor John Corcoran, parish priest of Our Lady of the Valley, which was hosting the event for the ninth time, read out a message from Archbishop Kelly which he had sent so he could be present in spirit if not in person. Moreover, with his customary kindness and generosity he undertook instead to earn his sponsorship money by praying and walking around Southport marina with Monsignor Richard Atherton.

Sadly, the gift of the glorious weather and perfect panoramic views of the surrounding Clitheroe countryside and valleys did little to ease the distress of the walkers who had seen the results of the Irish referendum on abortion.

A very sombre Lord Alton spoke to the gathering of 90 people before the walk. In his address he said that our walk to raise funds for the Right To Life charity was a chance to express solidarity with the three-quarters of a million Irish people who had voted against removing protection for the unborn child from the Irish constitution. He said that they had campaigned under the slogans ‘Both lives matter’ and ‘Love Both’ – mother and child – and this should remain the clarion call of the pro-life movement.

Lord Alton added that ‘no one ever said this would be an easy fight paved with victories but every life saved, every mind changed, is how we must measure success.’ Lord Alton, whose late mother was a native Irish speaker, has, along with his children, Irish as well as British citizenship and he reflected that anyone who loved Ireland and its people would inevitably ‘feel dispirited and distressed by this outcome’.

He added: ‘Every abortion is a tragedy. With one abortion in England every three minutes, Ireland will come to regret following the British law – a law that allows abortion up to and even during birth in the case of disability – leading to the death of 90 per cent of babies with Down’s syndrome.

‘It was bordering on the obscene to watch people celebrating an event that will lead to the ending of innocent life. Ireland will become like Ramah, where Rachel was found weeping and mourning the children that are no more. The spectacle of crowds gathering in Castle Yard in Dublin, where mobs once gathered to cheer the public execution of prisoners, was distasteful in the extreme.’

Lord Alton said that ‘time and time again those in favour of abortion, embryo experimentation, coercive overseas abortions, and euthanasia have relentlessly campaigned to change laws that since Hippocrates crafted the Hippocratic Oath – with explicit condemnation of abortion and euthanasia – have served society well. There is no such thing as a safe abortion for the baby in the womb. In Britain and now Ireland this is the most dangerous time in history to be an unborn child. For now we weep and stand with Rachel but, as the baton passes to the next generation, we will redouble our efforts until we change hearts, minds, attitudes, culture, and laws.’