My heart is sore. I’ve just finished listening to an incredibly brave woman, Siobhan Whelan, talk about her pregnancy in an interview on Prime Time. Prime Time never gets the good news stories from maternity wards, and this interview was no different. Siobhan, who was pregnant at the same time as I was in 2013/2014, was treated in Cavan General Hospital. This hospital has been in the news quite a bit over the past few years, home to numerous tragedies caused by medical misadventure. Pregnant women have entered and left empty handed, mourning the loss of their babies, believing in many cases that it was their fault. This isn’t the first Prime Time interview I’ve watched with women who were treated there, not the first I’ve welled up to. It draws little surprise, even though the topic is heart-wrenching. The lack of shock about the conditions is what hurts my heart most of all. It’s not exactly the only example of pregnant women losing their voices in the course of pregnancy as far as the medical profession is concerned. Bodily autonomy isn’t something afforded to those with child here.
On my way to work this morning, I was listening to a radio station I don’t normally listen to (Cork’s Red FM, I’m normally a 96fm woman after 9am). Amid discussions on government decisions about tax, and extra traffic on the road due to kids being back to school, the conversation turned to the traumatic events which unfolded in Cavan over the weekend, the tragic case of the family who died in a murder-suicide. This case has been all over the media in the last couple of days, with 99% of the focus on the man and his sons, with little on his wife who was also a victim. The media has talked about motivations, about mental illness, about how someone could do such a horrendous thing to the people they are supposed to love most in the world. Reading it, and avoiding any of the more salacious details which the tabloids seem to be reporting with glee, makes my heart hurt.
A bit of a letter I felt necessary after the recent developments in this week’s 2016 Rose of Tralee competition. Apologies for the length.
Here we are again, continuing the conversation about a line in our constitution which forces half the population into a second class citizen role. One that requires permission, only given by begging, pleading, desperate measures, from the bigger authorities, because heaven help us if they were trusted with making their own decisions. Yes, boys and girls, we’re talking about the 8th amendment again. I’m actually tired of talking about it, but it’s not something we can stop the conversation about because it’s still there, glaring at us up from Bunreacht na hEireann, highlighting the role of women as vessels. De Valera’s Ireland is still alive and kicking according to that piece of paper.
That quote about the best laid plans of mice and men? Someone definitely had spent time with a toddler that week. I’ve got the Monday blues, looking back at all of the things I had wanted to do last week, to do this week, feeling utterly muddled.
The word feminist is bandied around a lot, and there seems to be a lot of puzzlement about the actual meaning of the word “feminist” in a lot of cases. There are mental images of underwire on fire, talk of hairy women wanting men out of every powerful position. The words “feminize”, or worse “feminist bitches”, are bandied about and it seems that any replies to “banter” that call that behaviour out are taken in a remarkably negative way. This is the world we live in, and the world I am raising my son in.
If you missed it on Wednesday night, a rather incendiary debate kicked off on Brendan O Connor’s new current affairs show “Cutting Edge”. In response to a rather thought provoking piece from writer Louise O Neill, which spoke about how being a woman did not necessarily mean you wanted kids, Niamh Horan added her two cents. The piece from O Neill had put forward the idea that women who choose not to exercise their womb are thought of as selfish. In response to this, Horan, who is of the same age bracket, commented that in her opinion it is the parents who have their children but leave them in childcare, creches, while they head out to work, who are the selfish ones. It is, she said, the children who are suffering for their mother’s need to “have it all”.
We recently elected a new government, not that you could tell it in looking at our currently defunct parliament. In the 36 days since our votes were counted and those who were chosen by the people were officially elected, we have sat around watching them squabble like children, unable to pick their teams in a way that made anyone happy. They’ve racked up a whopping 1.75 million (and growing) wages bill – and that’s just the TDs – for their playground politics. Keep that figure in mind when you see the next one I give you – a proposed cut of 12 million from the 35 million budget ring fenced for mental health services. In our already fractured mental health system, the government is prioritising other things and taking funds away from helping some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I’m angry.
By now, you’ll have heard that Donald Trump is running for President of the United States of America. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (in which case, lucky you), you’ll have observed that his campaign has been brash, offensive, and discriminatory in just about every way possible – racism, sexism, and a whole pack of incitement to hatred thrown in for good measure. Recently, he made a statement which caught my eye more than the others – and given the dramatics he’s come out with, that is really saying something. Upon being interviewed in Wisconsin lately, he statedÂ that women who seek abortion should be subject to â€œsome form of punishment.â€ Media uproar ensued. Women’s rights activists lamented and shouted. Here in Ireland, we looked on at the potential new leader of a world superpower condemning his country to our current state: where women’s choice in their reproductive rights is limited and intrinsically linked with the opinions of people whose lives it will never affect.
This month, on the 24th of April, every household in Ireland will be filling out the census form. They’ll document every little detail about every person in the house that night – details of education, employment, religion, earnings, practically everything except for what they have for breakfast. This happens once every five years and gives the government information which they can then use to develop policies and allocate funds for development of things like schools, community amenities and various other schemes to improve society. It gives the state an honest picture of what it’s citizens look like. That is why I am finding it important to ensure my census form has the “No Religion” box ticked.