There is a temptation, when faced with the ease that abortion and similar evils are accepted in this country, to withdraw from the fight. It was exactly this temptation that Aontú representative for Cork North West Becky Kealy faced in 2018 – and ultimately resisted.
“When the referendum passed, I was just devastated like,” the Kanturk native tells The Irish Catholic. “I was like, that’s it, I’m so done with the world. I had this whole mindset of feck the whole lot of them now, I’m just going to live my life and just look after myself.”
The turning point came when Ms Kealy was asked to be one of the main speakers at the Rally for Life in July 2019”
Aontú formed late in 2018 and in May 2019, Ms Kealy was asked if she’d consider standing for them in local elections. “I was thinking, what’s the point in doing that now because we can’t reverse what’s done,” Ms Kealy says. “I saw no light at the end of the tunnel. So I said no, I was just not interested.”
The turning point came when Ms Kealy was asked to be one of the main speakers at the Rally for Life in July 2019. Expecting that few people would turn up, she was amazed to see a huge crowd.
“When I saw everyone, it gave me another gee-up. I thought, ok I had my time out, we do have to fight and start new campaigns and stuff like that,” Ms Kealy says. “Then, Paddy Scully, who stood in the local elections in Kanturk in May, he came to me and said look, would you get involved. Things don’t look too good now, but we need to be in politics. That’s where we need to be, we need to be legislators.
“I saw what he was saying and I saw light again and a battle coming up, a more long term one. I prayed about it and I had other people pray for me as well. As much as they were praying for me to run and get elected, they all saw the sacrifices I would have to make and how hard it would be, so we all just wanted what God’s will was.”
“I made a decision and I was at peace about it. That was August 2019. I was selected as a candidate then for the next general election in October 2019 and then the election was called 2020. So I hardly had time to think!”
Though she wasn’t successful in getting elected in 2020, the campaign was a significant moment in what had been a two-year volte face for Ms Kealy. Before the Save the Eight campaign in 2018, she admits that she “had strayed from God” and gone down the wrong paths.
“We were brought up in the Faith, my mother’s a fierce woman of faith,” Ms Kealy explains. “Then you hit your teenage years and stuff was messy at home, so I strayed away from God. I always knew he was there but I wanted to try and convince myself that he wasn’t so that I could do my own thing. I went down all the wrong roads, did all the wrong stuff.
Ms Kealy’s return to the Faith and the beginning of her political career were closely intertwined”
“Then what happened was I started at UCC and I was still away from God but it was when the posters were going up about Repeal of the 8th – I didn’t even know what it was until I asked someone and they said, oh yeah, they’re trying to legalise abortion in Ireland. I remembered my mother telling us what abortion was when we were young. There was a prayer up on a fridge against abortion and I remember asking her and her telling me.
“Something just set-off inside me, a fire just erupted and I went I’m going to do everything that I can to stop this bad thing like. That’s when I got involved in campaigning. Fr Marius had met my mother at a prayer night one night and she said I’ve a daughter in UCC and he was like, oh tell her come to the Catholic society. So I did, I went and I remember it was really cringe at the start but I stuck with it. Then I got in touch with Fr Maurice Colgan and I started getting new friends, good friends, and started campaigning then for the 8th.”
Ms Kealy’s return to the Faith and the beginning of her political career were closely intertwined, so it is not a surprise that she believes her personal beliefs and her political actions should not be separate.
“You can represent the people in your constituency as long as it’s in line with your own principles,” Ms Kealy says definitively. “We’re talking about abortion at the end of the day. Go into Kanturk, there’s no one thinking about it or talking about it, very little.
“The majority know it’s the bread and butter issues. They worry about their kids going off to school, trying to afford mortgages, all these day-to-day things that go on inside a household. You need to meet people where they’re at. When I think of it, when Jesus was here, the man who had no sight, the man whose arm he prayed over and it grew back.”
“He just did that, he helped them with the issues they wanted. He didn’t go preaching to them about homosexuality or abortion or gay marriage or any of these things. He just met them where they’re at and that’s what I’m trying to do. Obviously when it comes to the big moral issues, when it comes up again – say there’s another referendum on abortion – I’m going to stick to my guns and I’m representing the people in my constituency who think along those lines.”
Ms Kealy is confident that she will be elected at some point, that God wants her in power. For now, she is content to “commit myself to serving people and making the quality of their life better”.