Thursday, 29 November 2012

The anger and the shame of being Irish

To say I am angry this morning would be a gross understatement. I am LIVID! I am furious with my so-called representatives that they have the gall to think that women and pregnant women should "wait". I am furious that they are asking us the wait after we have waited more than twenty years already. I am even more annoyed that they were not present for the debating in the Dáil last night and sauntered in at the end to vote. These are politicians who worry about the apathy of the electorate when it comes to voting and then give us last night's performance!

What I saw in the Dáil last night was an exercise in block voting and political points scoring. Labour and Fine Gael are talking about legislating on the Expert Group recommendations AFTER CHRISTMAS. Clare Daly's Bill would have allowed for the basis of legislation to be set in motion now. The objections from April were ironed out and they still voted against it! Passing the Bill wouldn't have made it come into effect straight away but at least it would have gone on to Committee stage. Fine Gael are stalling for time so they can pretend to their conservative members that they tried their hardest to stop whatever legislation they end up introducing. Labour want to try to take the kudos in the new year because they just see this as playing politics. So now we have to 'wait'. Now we have to wait and watch while they play politics with the life of women.

Those one hundred and one politicians that voted to gamble with women's lives should be ashamed of themselves.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Get the SPUC out of my country!

The Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child are an interesting lot. They're a UK based group who have taken a keen interest in Ireland's laws and referendums over the past 30 years. When the country voted on the 8th Amendment SPUC were there - this was the attempt to ensure that Ireland remained abortion free forever more. They were also joined by groups with quaint names such as The Responsible Society (another British based organisation), The Council of Social Concern, The Irish Family League and a host of others all sounding as if they had just walked out of the 19th century along with the 1861 Offences against the Person Act, which, I might add, is still causing problems over a century and a half later. SPUC alongside supporting the Pro-Life amendment were also responsible for showing videos depicting abortion in hundreds of schools around the country. Throughout the 1980s, SPUC used the constitutional amendment in the courts to close down women’s counselling centres on the basis that providing information on abortion breached the rights of the unborn. In 1989 SPUC brought The Union of Students Ireland including Ivana Bacik, to court and threatened imprisonment for giving information to young women with crisis pregnancies.

At every Referendum in this country SPUC has been waiting in the wings. When the X-Case occurred in 1992 SPUC maintained that decision of the Supreme Court was perverse and that the Supreme Court, contrary to all reasonable expectations, allowed abortions in the case of threatened suicide. SPUC have been involved in campaigning against both of Ireland's divorce referenda. They called for Irish Catholics to vote 'No' in the Lisbon and Nice referenda. They even weighed in on our Presidential Election last year calling on the Irish people to vote for Dana, with John Smeaton, their director, stating in his blog "I pray that all Irish citizens who care about Ireland's historic defence of the sanctity of human life, and that all Irish citizens who care about defending their constitution, will get behind Dana's bid for the presidency." After Michael D. Higgins was elected President, Smeaton ran a full blog post on him asking 'Our Lady of Knock' and St. Patrick to pray for the Irish people as we would soon see the mistake we made in not voting for the good Catholic Dana. SPUC even decided that a 'No' vote was needed in our recent Children's Referendum saying that "(the) amendment, if passed, could potentially be a disaster for Irish families" and called upon Ireland's Catholic bishops "to do all they can to persuade the Irish people that such a constitutional change is not in the best interests of Irish families ".(Ah yes the Bishops, having already done so much for the best interests of Irish families as far as children are concerned)
It even hurts Michael D's head to think about this
We have a British based group that takes a somewhat unhealthy interest in the dealing of their neighbour, but who exactly are they? And who follows them? 
Enter Geoff @geoffsshorts who has the skill and patience to follow these things up and collate data. Now Geoff has previously run up the stats on Irish pro-life groups who *feigns surprise* all turned out to have a predominantly US based following. 
So what would we expect of a UK based pro-life group? That they would have a predominately UK based following - wrong. Pro-life groups this side of the water are yet again made up of predominantly US followers *sigh*

While there is a significant number of unknowns I think it is safe to say that not all of the unknowns will be from the UK. 
It is also interesting to note that despite SPUC's keen interest in Ireland the feeling is obviously not mutual, with only thirty six Irish followers. Looking at Geoff's spreadsheets of followers of SPUC, I found that about half of these thirty-six are pro-life/religious groups as opposed to individual people and a number of the others appear to be spammers. Flattering and all as it is that these groups are taking an interest in us, don't you ever wish sometimes that they'd just leave us the SPUC alone?

Thanks again to Geoff @Geoffsshorts for offering up the data on SPUC :)


Thursday, 22 November 2012

How the lack of legislation makes me more likely to have an abortion

I put this up already and deleted it because of the personal nature, then I decided feck it - we need these stories out there.

Hopefully this will be a brief post.

This is going to be a very personal post but it's something that has been playing on my mind since hearing of the death of Savita Halappanavar and hearing the stories from other women filter through the media.

When I was fourteen I had extremely horrendous periods. My mother eventually got fed up of the doctor saying it was a viral infection (that just happened to coincide with my periods every single month) so she demanded a second opinion. I was referred to a Dublin hospital whose answer was to put me on the pill.
Fast forward more than a decade and I changed doctors to a more female friendly clinic. Having explained my past history the doctor sends me for further tests in light of the fact that I was due to be married the following year.

I'm not going to go into the ins and outs of what was diagnosed but it boiled down to this : if I did become pregnant, I have an extremely high risk of having miscarriages and if I don't miscarry I have a high risk of having a baby with a disability. The first is heartbreaking, the second wouldn't phase me.

Talking over with himself the other night I came the conclusion that if we had different laws here and I did accidentally become pregnant (and believe me we have taken strong measures to ensure it doesn't happen but y'know nothing is ever 100%), I'd probably have a wait and see what happened attitude, maybe I wouldn't miscarry, maybe we'd become wonderful parents.
Since I am living in a country where there is a huge grey area regarding women's reproduction, I'm afraid I'll have to be on the plane to England. Since I do have a high risk of miscarriage I won't be waiting for a hospital to dither over whether or not my life is in danger while they wait to do something. I won't risk leaving my husband without his wife, my parents without their daughter and my sister without me. Ireland the bastion of life makes me more likely to have an abortion.

Thanks for reading - I'm not sure how long I will leave this post up for

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Give the government the Red Card for disability!

Do you remember the Special Olympics World Games 2003 that were held here in Ireland? Do you remember the hype and the hope and the pride? Do you remember when this country galvanised and volunteered and gave up their time and their houses (those who were hosting)? Do you remember what a wonderful time it was? Do you remember that we gave people with disabilities the opportunity to showcase their talents? To show their worth? To give them the opportunity to show us all the heroes they are?

The Fianna Fáil/PD government of that year promised us that a Mental Capacity Bill that would bring us in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities was imminent. It's now 2012 and there is sadly still no sign of this Bill. The Fine Gael/Labour government promised this Bill before the Summer recess, but nothing happened, they've promised it would happen before the Christmas recess but as of yet no movement. The lack of legislation in this area has dire consequences for people with disabilities and their families. I know this  because I have seen this first hand - because my sister is a wonderful lady of twenty three who just happens to have Down Syndrome. Tomorrow I get to spend the afternoon with her as my parents attend their first protest ever. Tomorrow I collect her from her day centre who have suffered the cuts of this government but who are still staffed by great men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty. For them I am thankful.

The government has promised to close unsuitable psychiatric institutions moving patients to more appropriate community-based facilities and to develop specific strategies for elderly patients and those with intellectual disabilities who remain under the care of mental health services.
The Government promised to ensure that the quality of life of people with disabilities was enhanced and that resources would be allocated reach the people who need them. They promised  to reform the delivery of public services to bring about back office savings to will protect front line services.

These and many more are just a small number of examples of broken promises. People with disabilities account for 13% of our population, yet they are largely ignored and expected the bear the brunt of government cuts.

Tomorrow we say "NO MORE". Tomorrow, Wednesday 21st November at 2pm at the Central Bank, the Disability Rights Coalition are handing the government the Red Card. Everyone who supports the rights of people with disabilities should attend! This includes grandparents, cousins, neighbours, work colleagues, team mates etc etc. This is about demanding equal rights and if you believe in this, then please support this March to Dáil Eireann.

This week charities are looking for your Acts of Kindness - if you are free tomorrow please consider giving your time to protest as your act of kindness

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Savita Halappanavar

I am not normally an over-emotional person, in fact I am often good naturedly accused of being somewhat emotionally stunted. I lack the understanding of what makes someone grieve about someone they don't know, celebrity deaths barely get a blink from me. However yesterday I couldn't update this blog. Yesterday I was shaking with rage and unable to type, yesterday I was on the verge of tears for a woman I never met and yesterday I was NEVER so ashamed to be Irish.
Yesterday I found out that a 31 year old woman, Savita Halappanavar, had died because of my country's archaic laws. The laws that should have been signed into legislation over twenty years ago.

The pro-life response was predictable as usual. Accusations of the pro-choice side "exploiting the tragedy" and using Savita's death as a "political football". While we're on that there was no mention of the horrific images used by the likes of Youth Defence and their ilk. There was no mention of their using images of miscarriages and parading them as pictures of abortion. There was no mention of the vigils for the baby in the X-case (despite that baby being miscarried and not aborted), no mention of the Youth Defence member who 'wistfully sighed' "He could have been my husband". Well here's some news Savita WAS somebody's wife, no 'could have' about it, she WAS Paveen's wife, she WAS somebody's daughter, she WAS a living, breathing human being with a myriad of interests and hopes and dreams. She was a Hindu living in Ireland who was told that "we are a Catholic country". We ARE NOT a Catholic country, countries don't have a religion - people do. Ireland is, or at least is supposed to be, a republic. A republic that is supposed to serve the needs of all it's people regardless of their creed, colour, sexual orientation or anything else. A republic whose hospital service should give the optimum care to everybody regardless. Alas it appears we are a republic in name only, Ireland does not serve or care about the health of its women. Ireland is a country that prioritises an already miscarrying foetus over the life of its mother. Savita and her family have paid the price for this.

Many times we have been told that there is no such thing as a life-saving abortion. Many times people have stood up and protested and said there was and is a clear need to legislate. Many times people protested that the lack of legislation could cost women their lives and still that old lie was the governments response. Last April the Medical Treatment Bill 2012 was tabled before the Dáil. A Bill that may have gone some of the way of preventing a death like this. ONE HUNDRED AND ELEVEN TDs voted against this Bill, including the three from my own constituency. In my constituency Labour TD Jack Wall, Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon and Fianna Fáil TD Sean O' Fearghail voted against that Bill. One of those TDs consistently received my number 1 vote in every election but NEVER AGAIN. Never again in my lifetime will any of those TDs ever get my vote. Through the National Women's Council of Ireland I contacted those TDs a short while ago asking them to prioritise legislating to protect women’s lives in line with the judgement of the Supreme Court in the X case and the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the A, B and C v Ireland case.

Then the news broke the night before last. The news broke of the needless death of a young woman. A death caused by the political cowardice of the TDs in my constituency and their national counterparts.

The time has come for change. The time has come for this government to stand up and do their job after more than twenty long years. The time has come for the so called democratic government of the so called republic of Ireland to do their duty and legislate for what the people voted for in several referenda. The time has come for no more shame and no more deaths. If the government can't do their job then they need to leave - NOW.

There was a protest vigil for Savita outside Dáil Eireann last night and there will be another vigil this Saturday 17th November at 4pm beginning in the Garden of Remembrance and going to the Dáil again.

We need to ensure that this never happens again.

Rest in Peace Savita Halappanavar
The whole world is watching us.