Angry in company

The question was posed many times in the past few months: What will we do with all this time when we repeal? Rest, was one of the obvious answers from many: sleep for a week, rest for a month, take a year of just living. These were women who had spent every free moment talking and thinking about the campaign; mothers with ulcers and babies who didn’t sleep, who in spite of it all drove around the towns of Ireland distributing leaflets, recorded video tutorials and messaging workshops while minding sick children, spoke at events with babies in slings and hanging off their breasts; women who have been at this for decades, since before the 8th amendment was inserted in the first place; students who don’t yet have the right to vote but...

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Whom do you trust?

We’ve heard it all before: a man brutally murders a woman, and everyone’s in shock. Perhaps after the debate that followed the reporting of the murder of Clodagh Hawe and her three sons by her husband a couple of years ago, journalists and editors are thinking twice, even thrice before publishing praise of Mark Hennessy, the man now found to have strangled the young Jastine Valdez to death in Wicklow. But no editor can make the words of locals go away, describing him as a “quiet man”, a “normal fellow”, “a normal dad” from “a well-respected family”. Of course he wasn’t all that normal. Married with kids, sure – but convicted of abusive behaviour and due in court for drink driving, crashing into vehicles and leaving...

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Change or no change – let’s talk about fears

I want to talk to you about your fears. I know you’re torn. I know you agree that there are exceptional circumstances that make abortion acceptable – circumstances where you’re willing to concede, despite the fact that your gut tells you it’s wrong. I know that you feel that abortion should be a last resort, and you fear that the government’s proposed legislation fails to acknowledge that. I won’t judge you. You’re not alone. But what if I was to tell you that maybe you don’t need to feel so torn? Hear me out – respectfully, non-judgementally. Because I actually do think there’s a middle ground here. I think that you agree with abortion in cases of rape. Do you? Do you empathise with the girl who’s been violated so...

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Love thy neighbour

She’s a lovely woman. She often stops by to chat when she’s on her way somewhere and my two sons are playing in the front garden. She tells me they’re adorable, such a gift. And she’s right – they are a gift. She means it in a slightly different way to how I see it, of course; she thinks of them as gifts from God. But we agree that they’re a blessing, if in a non-religious sense for me. When we first moved in, she asked if we were renting or had bought. She wanted to know if we were truly settling, I guess. She told us she’d grown up around the corner, one of 11 siblings. They’re tiny houses, even tinier back then. Eleven of them! That would’ve been cosy – at best. And she loves the area, loves seeing new families...

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No woman is an island

“Happiness is within,” they say. Within you, within that cup of herbal tea and a gratitude journal and deep, deep breaths. You should try yoga. We’ll all have our 15 minutes of fame – if we just find that strength within. We’ll all be somebody, more than just selfless mothers – we’ll make our lives into works of art, copyrighted, patented, and with no one to thank but ourselves. One for the gratitude journal: we’re safe from floods and earthquakes. But calm as the waters may be, the 8th ships us across the Irish Sea, sweeping secret upon secret under a rug woven of intricate age-old lies. “I’m drowning in post-natal depression,” says one, as another numbs guilt with a bottle of Tesco’s Finest. A third perfects the...

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Down Syndrome, reproductive choices and the need for a social welfare state

On January 2nd, the Irish Times reported that Irish women have been advised to start having babies younger. The contextual hypocrisy aside (think housing crisis, sky-high childcare costs, poorly paid graduate jobs – the list goes on), one aspect of the story jumped out: Dr. Fishel, of a Dublin IVF fertility clinic, said that Down Syndrome occurs in one of 700 pregnancies in women aged 32, while the same figure for women ten years older is one in 67, and 70-80% of a 40-year-old woman’s eggs have a chromosomal abnormality. Why it’s important? Because Irish women aren’t having enough babies to keep society going with our ageing population. We need to keep producing healthy, productive sprogs. Last weekend, Down Syndrome appeared in...

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On reproductive justice, the failures of neoliberalism, and why ‘choice’ is complicated

It’s a funny one, the word ‘choice’. I spend so much of my time promoting it, explaining it, demanding it – yet whenever I stop to really think about it, I realise that it’s a word I’d much prefer not to have to embrace. For as long as laissez-faire or economic liberalism has existed, ‘choice’ has been one of its most important buzzwords, second only to ‘freedom’. In fact, the Swedes, keen on optimising language to become its most functional and least wasteful, would talk about a combination of the two: ‘valfrihet’ – freedom of choice. In the name of freedom of choice, neoliberalism has torn down many a welfare state in the hope that the free market, as an invisible hand, would bring us all greater utility by way...

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Why politics needs passion: on tone policing, Repeal jumpers and rational reasoning

Is tone policing the new master suppression technique? What is a master suppression technique? you ask. It is a way to suppress and humiliate an opponent, according to Norwegian psychologist and philosopher Ingjald Nissen, who articulated the framework of such techniques in 1945. And tone policing? A tone argument is one which isn’t strictly concerned with what is being said, but rather with the tone in which it is expressed. Tone policing, consequently, is a strategy of dismissing arguments irrespective of their legitimacy or accuracy. It’s a derailing tactic and, I would suggest, a master suppression technique on the rise. Ireland boasts an impressive selection of recent examples of the latter, thanks to a series of articles...

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Rule of the people, anyone? On democracy and the system being broken

Look, I don’t mean to be patronising. If you’ve been to school, you know this; you’ll know it like the back of your hand. But today, it feels like perhaps we need to go back to basics. The word democracy means ‘rule by the people’, derived from the Greek ‘demos’, for ‘common people’, and ‘kratos’, for ‘rule’ or ‘strength’. Democracy, in other words, is a form of government in which political control is exercised by all the people, either directly or through elected representatives. Ireland is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic. Scrap the ‘directly’ bit from the definition above: representative democracy is a form of government in which power is held by the people and exercised indirectly...

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Free, safe, legal: on the importance of compassion, and why I won’t be playing strategic games

I’m going to come out and say it: I’m for abortion on demand, if that’s what you insist on calling it. Without restrictions. Time and time again we’re being told to tone it down. Again and again, newspapers insist on publishing opinion pieces telling us to be more strategic and less extreme. Not only are we too angry and shrill; our arguments are simply too much for middle Ireland to take. But I feel sick every time I think about playing the strategy game, and I can’t help but think that it’s them and not us who are doing it wrong. It is clear as day that volume and persistence works. 30,000+ people don’t turn up to march for choice in the rain during an ongoing bus strike for nothing. Moreover, I’m convinced that it’s...

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