Repeal Referendum

 

Not a lot left to say now except fucking hell.

On the day news of Savita’s death broke myself and mam happened to meet for lunch in a cafe across from the hospital.

A lone woman stood at the gates holding a sign

“NEVER AGAIN”

We brought her coffee. Mam talked about the indignity and casual humiliation she experienced in hospitals down the years. We will vote together today.

Galway Pro-choice was then only a few months in existence. Established by a 21 year old woman with no knowledge that she would be contacted by friends of Savita and Praveen setting off a chain of events reverberating to this day. As the country and world reeled in anger, those young women were scraping together money so that the tsunami of requests might be handled by a dedicated mobile phone. With absolutely none of training evident in recent appearances of Maria Steen or Simon Harris they took on the world media. There was never any question of doing otherwise.

Yesterday the march set out again from Eyre Square. What had until then been unusually subdued spontaneously turned into cheers and applause the whole way through town. It was so beautiful and just perfect. Smiling through the tears. Six years up and down that street and it concludes in raw positivity I will never ever forget. Tension and release. We cheered and the town cheered with us.

The Love Boats did not know what to do with themselves.

Later after the final of what felt like 72, 000 leaflets in labyrinthine celtic tiger suburbia the team headed home at 11.30pm. The air of unreality in that car, I just don’t know what to say.

We passed the hotel where once modestly attended open meetings took place. Where other activists would give up time travelling from Dublin or Cork to speak on Tuesday evenings. The same function room that recently heaved with one campaign launch after another and now it was over.

They say Savita’s death has been used by us but it was them and always them who used her life upholding their regime. They used her and so many others for their fiction.

This October and every after it will still be our side gathered in Eyre Square.

 

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On the ‘Culture of Death’

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During Oireachtas hearings in 2013 Caroline Simons of Love Both was asked about her  appearances on American television. At first she pretended not to know anything about an advert featuring an all Irish cast appealing for cash on Catholic EWTN. (Video of denial here)

When it was put to her a second time she responded that

I was not aware I was on EWTN. I do not know any agents of the culture of death, I hope. Certainly, they have not identified themselves as such to me.

No more surreal than any other day in Leinster House then.

Closing his statement in January this year, Mattie McGrath claimed that

This is an opportunity to assert we will not tread that path, that we choose a culture of life, the life of both mother and baby, and that we will not rush headlong into a culture of death from which there can be no return.

This second claim is somehow even more bizarre.

The story of early Christian Ireland is a complex one which we wont recount but needless to say the church made concerted effort to appropriate native pagan customs as their own.  Chief among preoccupations were matters of life of death.

Wakes are first mentioned in The lliad and much surviving archaeology concerns itself with the passing from this life to the next.  In a recent book, Kevin Tollis writes that

Waking the dead was still common in all European cultures until 200 years ago, but died away as the power of the Western Death Machine grew through hospitals, industrialisation and urbanisation to separate the dying from the living. For some reason, the power of the wake has always remained stronger, more embedded, amongst the Celts.

The wake is more than an Irish cultural icon. It is an ancient way of dealing with our mortality, a wisdom that we lose at our peril, and one of the oldest rites of humanity dating back long before the fall of Troy in the 8th Century BC.

 

This practice predates, and will likely outlast, Catholic dominance on this island but nevertheless, it had a good run maintaining an iron grip on the ritual of funerals to the point of dictating where our own family were buried. An Ordinance Survey map shows the country side pockmarked with the final and separate resting place of the unbabtised. This final detail gives us insight into the thinking at play.

Most recently, we saw it again in 2016 when the Vatican reaffirmed that the scattering of ashes is contrary to Catholic teaching. Where once they could decide if children were included in their own family plot, today the church are eager to keep people in ensuring they are not conducting personal ceremonies with notions of their own.

Opposition to euthanasia, assisted suicide and so on is quite clearly rooted in the belief that the laity should not be allowed to lose a fear of dying. The pope himself caused a stir earlier this year with the suggestion that the aul heaven and hell thing is not as clear cut. On the matter of ‘bad souls’ he allegedly said that

“They are not punished. Those who repent obtain God’s forgiveness and take their place among the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot be forgiven disappear. A hell doesn’t exist, the disappearance of sinning souls exists.”

The Vatican were quick to play down the remarks but this new ambiguity will come as a surprise to everyone threatened with enteral damnation for the past two thousand years. For the church itself single minded clarity on the issue has always been good for business if you discount the odd cataclysmic schism.

Here at home, we have the tradition of visiting Patrick’s grave on March 17th. This despite the fact the stone is certainly not his and there is no record of him ever being in Downpatrick, nevermind Slemish. Like his posthumous elevation to bishop of Armagh, these associations are an invention

We have no indication whatsoever of when, or where, he actually died. The lack of a known burial site, and/or possession of his body, was something particularly embarrassing to the Early Irish Church. It’s almost as if Patrick was telling the truth when he says himself that he wasn’t held in high esteem by fellow Christians during his life. Later (early medieval) hagiography had to came up with a very convoluted ‘explanation’ as to why his body wasn’t where it ‘should’ be. Ahem. Centuries later, Norman adventurers apparently managed to ‘accidentally’ stumble upon his grave during a spot of light gardening. What are the chances, like. This later ‘traditional’ location at Downpatrick even underwent an overhaul aimed at the tourist market in the early 20thC. Of course, its all just medieval show-business.

These people know the power of death and what better one to put in service of the church than the Big P himself.

So not to labour an obvious point but today these people accuse others of a culture of death and piously position themselves.

It is there very own culture of death they are fighting for. Key to their fading domination and something used to wield enormous control long before they needed constitutional amendments.

Radio Round-Up

Welcome, and a happy new year.

Dublin Digital Radio has grown into a formidable enterprise since its launch in 2016. The schedule today includes a serious variety of talented people pushing the forefront of Irish broadcasting. Check out http://listen.dublindigitalradio.com/

Catch up with the Oireachtas Retort Show below. I’ll be back next month as we look forward to the year ahead. New for 2018, all past and future episodes will soon be available direct to you on itunes, Stitcher and podcast apps.


 

In conversation with Dr Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, Turlough Kelly on his ‘The 4th Act’ documentary ahead of the Dublin International Film Festival & ongoings in the Gardaí with Richard McAleavey

Brexit, Borders and Britain’s Meltdown with Richard McAleavey

March for Choice Special with Linda Kavanagh, Stephanie Lord & Máiréad Enright

Catalonia and Spainish Nationalisms with Richard McAleavey

Corbyn and the British Election Special with Rosa Gilbert

General Election with Richard McAleavey and Sarah Clancy

Appropriate Women with Mairéad Enright and Niamh Puirséil

Citizens Assembly & Maternity Hospital with Sinead Redmond and Richard McAleavey

Trump, Populism, Citizens Assembly with Richard McAleavey and Stephanie Lord

Cop On Comrades with Dr Anne Mullhall

Holy Orders

An upcoming conference from the Iona Institute proposes to tell us ‘How we killed God’ or…

….how ‘Official Ireland’ is ruthlessly pushing all consideration of God to the margins of Irish life. Christians are allowed no place in public debate, and God is rarely spoken of in public any more. So far as Irish public life is concerned, we have effectively ‘killed’ God. Except we cannot do that of course, so we do the next best thing; we pretend he is ‘dead’.

Never mind that I type this during the angelus.

John Waters will be speaking, fresh no less from his appearance replacing Frankie Gaffney at a Mens Rights Activist conference.

There purpose of this event is to promote David Quinn’s new book. A collection of the same five newspapers columns he’s written over and over since 1994 bound and repackaged in time for the Christmas consumer market. Who said god is dead, huh?

Rumors of decline in the convents is also greatly exaggerated.

Via the Workplace Relations Commission this week we learn a nun intervened to prevent a woman getting a teaching job despite being the strongest and only internal applicant.

Objection was on grounds that she was an “unmarried mother” and her “lifestyle did not reflect the standards of the school and would send out the wrong message to the young female students” . During the competition process the nun “set out to denigrate the candidate and diminish her status as a candidate”.

The same nun also denied someone else a promotion on the basis that he was protestant and it would, she says “send the wrong message”.

“One very impressive and clearly appointable candidate emerged… When the scoring sheets were completed this candidate was ahead of the others who had presented for interview… ‘However, given that the candidate was a member of the Church of Ireland, his scores were revised downwards to place him in third place overall”.

This was all in the last six years.

The complaint emerged following a protected disclosure. See full details here.

Both schools involved are part of Ceist, a Trust established by religious orders while the Ryan Commission was still ongoing so they could put assets beyond the reach of the state and abuse redress.

The Trust controls about 30% of Ireland’s secondary schools and board members include several representatives from religious orders, former senior civil servant, senior banker and Ronan Mullen for good measure.

Michael Colgan’s World

Michael Colgan wields enormous influence within his own sphere. An industry particularly susceptible if not sustained day to day on abuse of position and boundaries. It is easy understand how he gets away with it on his own turf but he also is part of another very small group of people in this country.

A regular on say, Marian Finucane’s Sunday morning panel and the person whose phone rings when the papers or media want a spokesperson for ‘the arts’. A lot of dinners, launches and lunches. Engagements, meetings, consultancy and so forth.

Ministers speak at festival openings.  In bars, golf and rugby clubhouses during the bubble there was plenty boasting of the tax benefits investing in film and arts can bring. Accountants bringing people and worlds closer together. Just as we saw during the banks, you have a very small group of people always bumping into each other all the time.

Colgan would be rubbing shoulders regularly with the same journalists, editors, judges, politicians, wealthy types and bosses styling themselves as patrons of the arts. Different entourages with similar post codes. These circles are a close as we have to a who’s who. The top tables of theater are overwhelmingly middle class after all. He is part of a set and one that is looking the other way on a weekly basis.

Within this he seemingly made no effort to hide his behaviour and typical of people like him, took pleasure in humiliating his victims publicly. Flaunting his impunity and their powerlessness. Words like ‘bravery’ grate a bit in this and other contexts but having experienced that silent indifference, the knowing dismissal, it really is a massive things these women are doing.

When shit hits the fan though, this set are close to immortal. So very well practised when it comes to closing ranks, obfuscation and rehabilitation, if necessary. We have recently seen reaction to a convicted rapist. We should be used to the treatment of those who rock the boat. In most areas, groups or organisation, in big and small ways,  its is ensured that people understand the consequences of standing up.

So for many, instinctively there is much more than the reputation of Michael Colgan at stake. It is a matter of survival.

So now the stage is set for a familiar act.

The nature of these allegation, as we know, adds a whole other motivation for this episode to be contained.

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Reaction to Hook only looks like a “witch hunt” because these people are never challenged.

Anti-feminism has long underpinned the popularity of George Hook’s radio show on Newstalk. It has all gone too far, too fast, too soon, we are told, but despite tales of matriarchal mind control, having a go at women has always been big business and there is a significant audience out there nodding along in their tedious comfort zone.

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Only within that bubble could anyone avoid seeing how this crap is anything other than  going through the motions. The big talk and hard act scarcely concealing how gratingly unoriginal all this bullshit truly is. Only within this narrow minded posture could Hook’s comments be seen as out of the blue or responsibility for rape be up for discussion.

Women are regularly demeaned as the most conventional sexism is dressed up anew with dubious scientific ‘studies’ and tabloid moral panic churned out for afternoon broadcasts.  Hook’s show actively sought thinly veiled women-as-societal-honour items for the sake of entertainment and yet this week we are told it is Hook himself the victim of a “witch hunt”.

This is but the latest chapter in an ongoing series. Every Irish media organisation increasingly and deliberately trades on outrage but haven’t yet figured out what to do when not in control or indeed the target.

In the Irish Examiner, Michael Clifford claims that there is “absolutely no room for nuance” and “no room to ask Hook what exactly he meant or where he’s coming from”. One could only arrive at this conclusion under the impression that this is somehow a new or novel issue to be teased out.

What fresh and welcome insight can you offer about responsibility when women already spend an inordinate part of their lives getting taxis short distances, traveling in groups, checking in when they arrive home safe. The list is endless with further exhaustion having to constantly justify yourself in the face of professional and paid ignorance from people like George Hook.

Nicola Furlong was 21 in 2012 when she was assaulted & murdered in Japan. During the trial, an RTÉ radio report reiterated court arguments about skirt length. That’s what your judgement and victim blaming sound like. The same defense as a rapist.

Reaction to Hook, Waters, Myers, etc, only appears terrifyingly over the top because these people are so unfamiliar with being challenged. Right across the media and elsewhere, people who so spectacularly fail to do their job continue to prosper. Business journalists who couldn’t see a speculation bubble in front of their face and political reporters shocked by election results. Time and again we see these people completely misjudge the public mood and outcome of events.

Nothing changes and pushback then only appears like an ugly mob because effective accountability & means to challenge perpetual inaccuracies, incompetencies and worse are deliberately non existent. The people in position of power in this country are some of the last on earth we should entertain lectures on taking responsibility.

All this against the backdrop of a wannabe Taoiseach running campaigns vilifying the unemployed and vast sections of society being told to suck it up as they are driven into poverty.

The private lives of single mothers on housing lists and those of people dying on the street are splashed all over newspapers to mitigate damage to the powerful just as TDs campaigning against police malfeasance have confidential information handed over for headlines.

Noirn O’Sullivan finally departs in disgrace and will be paid €90,000 a year pension plus €270,000 lump sum. Having overseen an organisation that really does actively ruin people’s lives.

But instead we are told it is Hook and others that have been “destroyed”, “banished”, “torn apart” and even ‘lynched’.

George Hook has a side operation for himself as the face of Irish Rugby Tours LTD running packages for traveling fans. Company accounts say directors were paid €191,803 last year. For Hook’s punditry on RTE and other engagements he was paid through his own Foxrock Communications LTD which he wound up pocketing €903,660 as the only shareholder. None of this includes his Newstalk salary or indeed fees for playing host to events for the ruling government party.

Hook is popular on the lucrative after-dinner and conference circuit with agents boasting that he is “3-time winner of the British Chambers of Commerce ‘Best Individual Speaker’ award” and that “Hook’s appearance at a Dublin Chamber of Commerce breakfast brought the highest attendance in the history of the event”. No coincidence that Hook’s brand of chavanism would be so popular with the bosses.

Wealth aside, men like George Hook have a very cushy existence. Sometimes too cushy. After departing RTÉ, Hook had a bit of difficulty finding his way into the Aviva stadium. Confusion arising as he had spent the previous few years being chauffeured from his front door to a separate non-public entrance. That’s certainly the mark of someone deserving money and airspace to talk shit about the “real world”.

A cushy existence playing the hard man all the while your act fits neatly into ruling interests. These people sustain themselves for years, clogging space at the top by never challenging established and viciously guarded power. Each week Newstalk feature an item where celebrity boss and bikini fancier Bobby Kerr is on hand to answer listener’s questions on matters employment like pensions, maternity leave, and so on. This regular segment is an unintentional indictment of the grey areas and information deficit that allows workers to be exploited. Curiously, people are never advised to join a trade union.

Power will always side with power. The sympathy for George Hook is just the same as that recently found for the Sisters of Mercy when people then too said “enough” regarding the new maternity hospital.

The Sisters of Mercy who profited on the back of forced labour and imprisonment. The Sisters who were just one cog in a machine and culture that banished not the likes of George Hook but exiled women from their own families and communities to Magdalene Laundries and out of the country. That continues the denial of rights under the 8th Amendment.

According to Irish society what was the reason for all this?

Because women “got themselves into trouble”.

Cop on Comrades

We are a group of activist women from a wide variety of backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Last week, a good number of the left-wing men we work and organise with seriously disappointed us. These men – our friends, our fellow trade unionists, activists, writers, organisers, and artists – shared and commented on a reductive and damaging article written by Frankie Gaffney, which was published in the Irish Times.

We live in a world where our advantages are tangled up with the things that disadvantage us – some of us are working class, some queer, some of us are poor, some of us come from minority ethnic groups or have disabilities or don’t enjoy the security of citizenship. As well, some of us have had a multitude of opportunities in our lives while some of us have had to fight our way through. It is an obligation on all of us to honestly look at our different positions within the structures of oppression and privilege under patriarchal racial capitalism. It is only by acknowledging all these differences that we have any chance of imagining and building a better world that includes us all.

Working-class ‘straight white men’ in Ireland don’t have it easy these days. They never did. They are ignored by a political class that couldn’t care less about them. They should have a say in the decisions that affect their lives, but they often don’t.

However, that doesn’t make them immune to critique. We all have to examine ourselves as oppressor as well as oppressed – because we are all both. The response to the article felt like a silencing to us and we are writing this because we are way past putting up with that. You will see from the names on this letter that we are women who have been in the thick of things. Whether in political parties and organisations, education, trade unions, or grassroots and community-based movements, we are tired of being accused of ‘bourgeois feminism’ and of betraying the struggle when we raise our voices. No campaign in this country could survive without women, without us – our work and energy and knowledge and organising have been instrumental in all the progressive movements in this country. When we say we need to be recognised and respected within our movements, we need you to listen.

The article expressed the view that identity politics is good for nothing except dividing movements, using language and narratives that have been made popular by MRA (Men’s Rights Activist) groups and the alt-right. According to such narratives, straight white men are the new most oppressed group. This ignores the struggles of women and others at the sharp end of misogyny, racism, anti-trans and anti-queer violence. It aims to silence those who will no longer tolerate the violence, abuse and marginalisation we have suffered for so long. These alt-right arguments have been used by people on the left to support the view that women, and feminists in particular, are to blame for the rise of the far right – for instance, for Trump’s election – and for neoliberal capitalism, which is seen as having damaged working class men in particular.

In this version of events, straight white men are made to feel uncomfortable about being ‘born this way’ by social media-fuelled ‘political correctness’. They are too afraid to say what they think or express opinions for fear of online retribution. Men who claim to be silenced in this way might try a week or even a day as a vocal woman or person of colour online and see how they deal with the rape threats and threats of racist violence that follow.

We are not concerned here about one opinion piece by one person. Rather we have all been aware of the increasing trend towards this particular new type of silencing of women from our supposed fellow activists on the left. The arguments mounted here and elsewhere are apparently to criticise some of the worst aspects of ‘call-out culture’, as well as the lean-in type of so-called feminism that disregards class and race. Yet they seem to be used now by some of our left-wing activist comrades as an excuse not to deal with the complexities of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation in our political organising. These excuses, when accepted, prevent us from seeing clearly the state of our movements – who is taking part in them, who is heard and represented, who is doing the work. These are massive issues that have to do with how we are creating mass movements, which need to be addressed and faced to ensure that people of different classes, races, ethnicities, sexual orientation and gender have not just a voice but leading roles in our struggle. Without this solidarity in working together, we are simply imitating the oppressive structures we want to fight – the structures that say “not now, your life comes second.” It is not the straight white men who are being silenced when this argument is made.

We are working-class women, women of colour, migrant women, trans women, Traveller women, disabled women, queer women, women who are sex workers, women with children, and women who are none of these, active in our communities and committed to an anti-capitalist struggle. We are well aware that a right-wing, neoliberal distortion of feminism and what is called ‘identity politics’ exists. We know this because it erases our experiences and struggles and we resist this erasure through our work as activists every single day. It is distressing and enraging that we also have to fight against the bad faith of fellow activists on the left – mostly men, sometimes women – who, for their own reasons, blur the distinction between this kind of middle-class neoliberal faux-feminism, and a truly radical feminist politics that has class struggle at its very core. This hurts us because it erases and undermines our realities, our suffering, our analyses, and our organising, and gives more strength to the powers that are ranged against us. For many of us, it is heart-breaking to look at some of the men around us and realise that they are nodding in agreement with this erasure of their working class women friends and comrades.

Most of us have grown up learning to appease men. How to give them our space, how to deal with the fact that they dominate any political discussions, that they are paid more, heard more and believed more. However, most of us expect that the men we work with in all the social justice movements we are part of should have at least considered how they are complicit in this domination when they refuse to recognise that it exists. Patriarchy forces men into roles that damage them as well as us. Most of us have men that we love, admire and respect in our lives and for that reason, not only because it damages and diminishes the life experiences of women, we should all be fighting patriarchy together.

Niamh McDonald
Zoe McCormack
Jen O’Leary
Aline Courtois
Emily Waszak
Theresa O’Keefe
Sinéad Redmond
Aislinn Wallace
Hazel Katherine Larkin
Linnea Dunne
Natalia Fernandez
Helen Guinane
Maggs Casey
Stephanie Lord
Anne Mulhall
Eileen Flynn
Ellie Kisyombe
Elaine Feeney
Wendy Lyon
Sarah Clancy
Brigid Quilligan
Emily Duffy
Clara Purcell
Aoibheann McCann
Aoife Frances
Shauna Kelly
Eilís Ní Fhlannagáin
Dearbhla Ryan​
Michelle Connolly
Siobhán O’Donoghue
Aoife FitzGibbon O’Riordan
Stephanie Crowe Taft
Denise Kiernan
Aisling Egan
Donnah Vuma
Kate O’Connell
Natalia Fernández
Fionnghuala Nic Roibeaird
Mary McAuliffe
Marie Mulholland
Margo Harkin
Avril Corroon
Juliana Sassi
Ailbhe Smyth
Kate McGrew
Ciara Miller
Aoife Dermody
Emer Smith
Francisca Ribeiro
Jerrieann Sullivan
Marie McDonnell
Kathleen Gaul
Liz Martin
Laura Lee
Roisin Blade
Kerry Guinan
Gráinne O’Toole
Edel McGinley
Máiréad Enright
Erin Fornoff
Sarah Fitzgibbon
Cliona Kelly
Ciara Fitzpatrick
Bronwen Lang
Shonagh Strachan
Dervla O’Neill
Hilary Darcy
Jane Xavier
Emma Campbell
Clara Rose Thornton IV
Linda Connolly
Nomaxabiso Maye
Rosa Thompson
Liz Nelson
Eavan Brennan
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Elaine D’alton
Anne Rynne
Elaine Crory
Jodie Condon
Clare Kelly
Catriona O’Brien
Meireka Radford
Lisa Keogh Finnegan
Fiona Dunkin
Lelia Doolan
Jacinta Fay
Mary O’Donoghue
Mariel Whelan
Aine Treanor
Flavia Simas
Meabh Savage
Noirin Lynch
Claire Brophy
Liz Price
Linda Kavanagh
Linda Devlin
Aileen O’Carroll
Anita Koppenhofer
Vicky Donnelly
Marianne Farrelly
Aisling Walsh
Ronit Lentin
Sarah Ferrigan

References:

Power in Society

 

Women of colour suffer more under austerity:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/28/toxic-concoction-women-colour-pay-highest-price-austerity

Women hit harder by cuts than men

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/07/austerity-feminist-issue-women-will-be-hit-twice-hard-men-cuts

Suffrage & Socialism:

http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/century/century-women-and-the-vote/suffrage-and-socialism-links-with-labour-1.553467

Women & Class Privilege:

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/mar/31/gender-pay-feminism-working-class

Why Class is a Feminist Issue:

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/class-is-a-feminist-issue/

WHITE PRIVILEGE AND MALE PRIVILEGE:
http://www.collegeart.org/pdf/diversity/white-privilege-and-male-privilege.pdf

https://thewalrus.ca/on-cultural-appropriation-canadians-are-hypocrites/

More women attempt suicide than men
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jan/21/suicide-gender-men-women-mental-health-nick-clegg

http://www.healthpromotion.ie/hp-files/docs/HSP00612.pdf (pg 10)