The Marriage Referendum Result-Notes from the ‘No’ constituency

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Well, it’s all over. The dust has settled, the votes have been counted, and the country has voted yes in an overwhelming fashion that I did not dare let myself hope was possible. To say that I am relieved is an understatement. By the end, I had completely switched off the TV debates for my own self care. The daily demonization was just too much.

Of course, there was one fly in the ointment-Roscommon South Leitrim, the only constitutions in the country to vote No. Every time I see a map of Ireland in my Twitter feed with Roscommon/South Leitrim lit up in red and sticking out like a sore thumb, I cringe. The jokes and memes are already all over the internet, and I even noticed a tongue in cheek ‘petition’ to sell off Roscommon to Northern Ireland. The kind of people creating and sharing these are possibly quite progressive politically. They probably voted voted Yes, and proudly displayed a Yes Equality logo on their social media profiles for the last few months.

Call me a humourless wagon, and yeah, it’s quite possible that I am, but I honestly am struggling to find this situation funny. I am a bisexual woman living in the constituency, and the fact that the majority of my neighbours either voted against or were simply not bothered to vote in favour of marriage equality hurts me. I am sure that there are dozens of other LGBTQIA+ people in the region feeling similarly let down. There are young queer teens waking up today in Roscommon and Leitrim, and though they will be no doubt buoyed by the Yes victory, the knowledge that their county men & women voted against the referendum will possibly make them feel even more isolated in a rural area that does not enjoy the same strong support networks that their more urban counterparts do. I feel for those kids today. I and others should not feel that we have to leave our home to feel loved and included. In the light of all this, the jeering and Roscommon-bashing feels neither funny nor progressive to me.

Kudos must go to Yes Equality Roscommon and YE Leitrim, tiny grassroots groups with little to zero funding, consisting of volunteers giving up their own time to get the message out. Would that I could say the same of the local political parties, who seemed to decide that they’d rather sit this one out, despite the fact that the national parties came out in favour. I e-mailed my local politicians in frustration, with only one or two even deigning to acknowledge me. By way of contrast, the No campaign had a very robust presence, with leaflets being handed out at masses and placed on windscreens in church car parks in every parish. No posters outnumbered yes by 10 to 1 easily, with a fresh crop going up on the eve of the referendum. It was an uphill struggle, despite what the likes of self-pitying Iona members will say today.

2/3 of the electorate voting Yes is a great result, but we need to do more. Hundreds of thousands of people rejected the proposal, and many of those will undoubtedly be parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts of queer children. Donegal, Cavan and other north-west and border counties shaded it by a mere few thousand votes, with some remote pockets of overwhelming Nos. Now that marriage equality has been achieved, we need to keep up the momentum in the push for liberation. Gender recognition, blood donation bans, section 37.1 of the Employment Act that entitles schools to fire LGBT teachers with impunity must be on the political agenda. The movement needs to centre trans people, people of colour, people with disabilities and sex workers.  Many LGBT people will be suffering under the austerity measures implemented by the Fine Gael/Labour government who are reassuring us how pro-equality they are today. We also, of course need to repeal the 8th amendment, as our draconian abortion laws disproportionately affect poor and migrant people, many of whom are queer and trans.

This victory is a wonderful, cathartic event and to paraphrase Panti, Ireland didn’t change yesterday, it confirmed a change that has already begun to take place. Yesterday was far from an end, but merely a start.


Paddy McKenna, the RTE journalist and Leitrim has written a decent post on this on his blog here. I don’t necessarily agree with all of it, but I think it’s worth a read.

The Marriage Equality Referendum-it’s personal

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As a bisexual woman the run in to this referendum has hurt me. I’ve certainly been on the brink of tears on a few occasions. The campaigning by those opposed to the amendment has been insidious and ugly in a way that feels very personal.The posters that dominate the landscape on my way into work make my heart sink every time I drive past them, the daily demonisation of queer people, the dogwhistle misogyny of some of the rhetoric about mothers and women and what our proper place in society is-it’s all too much.

Hurtful and all as the bile from the No camp is, I’ve been disappointed to see erasure by some on our own side. Now, I know how it all works  I know the rules of engagement for referenda-especially for the side that are campaigning for change-issues will be flattened for the sake of simplicity. Referenda are by their very nature single issue campaigns, and clarity is key. I get that. I realise that people perpetuating the erasure are most likely well intentioned. It still hurts.

As someone who has lived in a rural area all my life, the outside world certainly feels like a far colder world than the little lefty feminist bubble I like to stay in online. People I’ve known all my life-who will always give a friendly wave when you drive past the house, who were good and kind to my grandparents when they were still alive- are now busy handing out leaflets claiming that the likes of me are out to destroy the fabric of society. It feels at times that people speak as if it’s impossible that a queer person might also be in the room. As I travel on the bus home from a shopping trip or stand in line in the post office, I’m reminded of a line in Panti’s wonderful Noble call-“Do they think that about me?”

As other people, like the brilliant Aoife (@flyingteacosy) have written before me, this referendum is about so much more than marriage. If the referendum is passed, it will be a victory for progress and decency. It will send out a strong message, especially to young LGBT people, that our lives and loves are valid and that society embraces us as equal citizens. It won’t be the end of the struggle by any means, but it will represent a loosening of the grip of reactionary, oppressive forces on us and our lives.

I know it’s naive and foolhardy of me, but I haven’t even been able to entertain the thought of a No victory, because the prospect is so unbearable. Should Yes win the day, the No side can shrug it off and go home. Mind you, the victim complex of the likes of the Iona Institute will be through the roof for a while, but a month, six weeks down the line, the whole thing will just be a memory to most people. This will not be the case if the reverse happens. An Ireland that rejects marriage equality on May 22nd will feel like a much colder, harsher place. The No campaign has, to a degree, legitimized homophobia as a valid position to take in a “respectable” campaign and if they win the day, well, they can say they have been given a stamp of approval by nation. It will be as if the entire country has taken stock of us and found us wanting. Like I said, unthinkable.

The divorce referendum of 1995 was won by 9,114 votes, apparently an extra vote in every ballot box in Ireland. I urge you to do whatever you can to cast your Yes vote on Friday, and to get your loved ones, not-so-loved ones and local milkman to do likewise. It might seem like such a small act, but it could mean so, so much to a lot of people.

VOTE YES.

RAG vs Races-why is drinking in a suit more acceptable?

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lapgate bar bill

“Students queuing for a pub?! The youth of today are losing the run of themselves, Joe!”

OK, I wanted to write something on Donegal Tuesday and Galway Rag Week, or more to the point, the coverage in the media. I’ve seen Galway Rag Weeks, Arthur’s Days, post-ball parties, exam parties, you name it, in the flesh- I’ve done my time, paid with the hangovers. It gets messy, yes. Some assholes take it too far and make a nuisance of themselves, yes. I’ve also seen Galway Race Week in the flesh. There’s nothing you can say about it that you couldn’t say about RAG week, except that it’s folks of all ages, not just students. Some of them happen to be city councillors. Even TDs. All-day boozing, pissing in the streets- race week is Donegal Tuesday week dialled up to 11, except in fancier clothes, and the media will run puff pieces about hats and the great boost it will give the local economy.

On Tuesday, Liveline devoted an hour to people reacting to students queuing for a pub. The arguments were predictable, with added insinuations about the employment status of the young people there and the usual crap along the lines of the “they all have flatscreen TVs, Joe!” frenzy. Last RAG week one of the city clubs closed due to overcrowding and RTE news dispatched someone to report from Galway as if it was a war zone. Race week gets plenty of coverage too, of course, but mostly about what a great cornerstone of Irish culture it is.

The student on who spoke on Liveline claimed that February was “designated drinking month” for Irish students, as it comes at a relative lull in the college year, with Christmas exams being over and the finals still months away. Donegal Tuesday, he argued, was merely another one in a long line of Irish traditions revolving around drink. Joe nearly had kittens. The student might have been blunt, but there was an undeniable ring of truth there. Births, deaths and marriages are marked with drink. When Barack Obama visited Ireland, the image beamed around the world was the president with a pint in his hand. A former Taoiseach’s drunken interview made it onto Jay Leno. I won’t even get into the Dáil bar and the night of lapgate. Just last week the government abandoned plans to introduce stricter rules around sponsorship and sports events. The Irish establishment and booze goes together like, well, vodka and coke.

Donegal Tuesday should not be above critique, but it is a symptom of a wider malaise, and one that didn’t start in the last 5 or 10 years. Demonizing students for the problems of an entire culture is Irish hypocrisy at its finest.

c brown twet

Why I’m Not Going To Be ‘Calm’

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Content warning: this post deals with abortion, anti-choice politics, death, misogyny.

As I write this, I’m at home in bed in the throes of the worst flu I’ve had in years, surrounded by tissues and every item in the medical cabinet. I’m sleep deprived, cranky, miserable and not feeling in the least bit rational.

Rational. That’s what I’m supposed to be. That’s what even folks on “my” side of the abortion debate are always urging me to be. Calm down dear, it’s only your basic bodily autonomy and human dignity that’s at stake after all.

I am done with being calm. I am done with being rational. I am sick and tired at being lectured to and condescended to by wealthy, white cis men for whom this will never be anything but an abstract topic to debate.

Last night, as our politicans voted to put this whole nasty Eighth Amendment business on the long finger once again, another tragic case was emerging that illustrated a new dimension to this utterly macabre, unworkable legislation. The disconnect between the moralism and political cowardice of the folks in Leinster House and the reality of life for Irish people was never more pronounced than last night, as we once again had it confirmed for us that, even in death, you cannot escape from being reduced to a vessel at the hands of the state. We heard the usual lines about “no mandate” and no public appetite for a referendum. Meanwhile, roughly 10 women were packing an overnight bag to make a trip across the Irish Sea that 150,000 others have made since the 80’s.

As long as the Eighth Amendment remains in place, if you have a uterus, your body is not truly your own in Ireland.

We have heard the tragic cases before. The names, the stories are familiar to us all- Sheila Hodgers, Michelle Harte, Savita Halappanavar. Between the A, B, C, D, X, Y cases, we’ve nearly exhausted the entire alphabet at this point. This year
26 migrant women were forced to continue pregnancies against their will because they could not travel for abortions. We have read the stories of people attempting to crash a car in such a way as to end the pregnancy but not cause serious injury or death.

How many more women lives will we sacrifice or utterly destroy to preserve this lie, this really disgusting lie that Ireland is some kind of shining pro life beacon?

And yet.

They’ll tell us to be calm, to be rational. Sit down and debate this calmly and maturely, not like the hysterical harpies that you are. Wait for the next government. Wait for the next report.We’re told we want abortion on demand. You see, when women need access to essential healthcare, it’s a demand.

So, no, I’m not going to be calm and rational as my intimate life is being legislated. I cannot be calm when I see what this law is doing to real people every day.

If you’re not angry too, then why the hell not?

Repeal The Eighth.

Bi Visibility Day

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Content note: this post mentions bi erasure and biphobia. September 23rd is Bi Visibility Day, also called International Celebrate Bisexuality Day. It’s a day to acknowledge and celebrate bisexuality, to centre bi issues and crucially to address bi erasure and biphobia. Why bi visibility? A couple of years ago, before I was out, a college housemate told me about her ‘lesbian’ friend who had recently become pregnant and was living with a man. “I don’t think being bisexual is a thing”, she sniffed. “You’re either straight or you’re gay”. These were the words of, to be fair, a young, naive student, but her views are depressingly common, even among older adults, and not necessarily just straight people. Over the years I’ve heard hurtful myths about bisexuality and bisexual people, from the notion that we’re “sitting on the fence”, too scared to commit to being properly lesbian or gay (ugh), to the idea that if, say, a bi woman is in a relationship with a man, that she is in a heterosexual relationship. According to one particularly ugly myth, that I’ve sadly seen some feminists propagate, bisexual women in particular self-identify as such because we want to be sexually available to men. These myths are damaging, and can make bisexual people feel excluded from the very LGBTQIA+ spaces that should embrace them, aswell as society at large. Bisexual erasure in society is bolstered by media and culture. How often have you heard a character in a show or movie say, “I was gay/lesbian, but now I’m straight,” “I was young, it was just a phase,” or, “I don’t like labels?” There seems to be a pathological aversion to saying the b word. How many times have you seen a bisexual introduced to a show, but whose characterization amounts to a few hackneyed tropes? In 2015, Ireland will vote in a marriage equality referendum. Much as I’m dreading the likes of the Iona Institute being given their legally mandated platform to spew bigoted swill, I’m not jumping for joy at the prospect of bi erasure by both sides of the debate. Bisexual folk are marginalised by Ireland’s laws too, and our erasure from the debate risks reinforcing the myth that we can reap the benefits of this mythical “straight privilege”. What You Can Do To Help Well, first and foremost, you can amplify the voices of bisexual folk, and not just on September 23rd. Don’t assume to speak for bi folk, and assume that bi issues, lesbian and gay issues are one and the same. Those of us in the bi community that are white, cis, of class privilege, etc., need to identify our own privileges and amplify the voices of more marginalised bi folk, and recognise that not all our struggles look the same. Don’t assume that everyone fits into the box of either “heterosexual” or “homosexual”. Don’t buy into the damaging myths. Don’t assume that we’re “confused”, that we will grow out of it eventually, or that we’re doing it for attention. Don’t erase our sexuality by implying that we can revert to being straight when it suits. Finally, for the love of God, straight men, please don’t assume that I’ll want to have a threesome with you and another girl.

On RTE’s Disrespect and the Camogie Final

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Today I watched the All-Ireland Camogie Final between Cork and Kilkenny. It was a fantastic game, with great skill on display from both sides and all the high-octane drama you associate with the sport. A great occasion, all in all, and Cork proved worthy winners in the end. This was, however, no thanks to the media coverage, and RTE’s handling of the event in particular.

I tweeted earlier today, wondering why there’s no Up For The Match programme on the eve of the camogie final. I mean, we all *know* the reason, but does it have to be so? The inevitable retort would probably be something along the lines of, “well, the level of interest isn’t there”, or “the game isn’t high-profile enough”. Sorry, but that’s not good enough. The game isn’t high profile enough, you say-do you see how you could easily remedy that? Give the game the platform it deserves, primetime on RTE. If you say the game just isn’t popular enough, don’t let it become a self-fulfilling prophecy when you can do something to rectify that. RTE is the country’s national broadcaster, and unless I’m sorely mistaken, half of this nation is comprised of women.

However, to my mind the greater insult came just after the match, when RTE cut away to an ad break in the middle of Cork captain Anna Geary’s speech. It was an incredibly careless and dismissive gesture on RTE’s part, and as many people on Twitter mused, it simply would not happen to the captain of the winning hurling or men’s football team.

Women’s sport is going from strength to strength in this country, but the disrespect displayed by the media is incredibly damaging. From trite, sexualized, homophobic articles about women’s rugby to blatant disregard from RTE, women in sport are misrepresented and under-served. What does it say to young girls watching at home when the words of a woman who has reached the pinnacle of excellence in her field are deemed less important than advertising revenue? We need to show young girls that their sporting heroes are worthy of equal esteem and adulation to male sports stars. A small paragraph in the sports pages and one match a year on TV  won’t cut it anymore. We need to stop taking asinine excuses for the dismal lack of representation. Women deserve better; young girls in particular deserve better.

Voting Prochoice in the Roscommon-South Leitrim By Election-UPDATED Oct 5th

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Content Note: this post contains some very extreme anti-choice views from certain candidates that may be upsetting.

On October 10th, the voters of Roscommon-South Leitrim will be voting in a by-election to select a replacement for new MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan. I will be contacting all the candidates to ascertain their position on abortion, and more specifically, repealing the eighth amendment.

Why I Am Voting Pro-Choice For me, reproductive rights are non-negotiable. I’ve written before on why we need to repeal the eighth amendment, and many people have put it far more eloquently than me here, here, and here, and there’s a whole playlist of excellent speakers here all making the case for repeal aswell. Simply put, opposition to changing Ireland’s abortion laws is a dealbreaker. Any person who would oppose my right to bodily autonomy and my dignity is not someone I would want as my representative in Dáil Éireann. Luke Flanagan had a fine track record on reproductive rights and other issues, and I would like to elect someone who will continue in this vein. I will be sharing my responses from candidates here as I get them.

Fine Gael-Maura Hopkinscontacted

Fianna Fáil-Ivan Connaughton-contacted

Labour- John Kellycontacted

Sinn Féin-Martin Kenny-contacted

INDEPENDENTS:

Emmett Corcoran

I’ll be perfectly honest with you, and I’m not going to give you a rehearsed political answer. I don’t believe that as a man I can give you a simple answer on this issue. Naturally if I was a father to be, I would want have that child, under any circumstances. However, I also believe that it is not my place to tell a woman what to do with her body. I wish I could tell you more but this is a very complex issue and one that as a man I am terribly under qualified to answer with a simple for or against.

Tom Crosby-contacted

Des Guckian:

 I’m personally concerned that there is a big attempt being made, now, to overthrow The  Eight Amendment to the Constitution,which was passed in 1983, and which recognises the equal rights of the mother and of her unborn baby. Abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn baby.  I’m against the state condoning abortion and enshrining it in law. This applies, also, to babies in the womb who are regarded as being likely to be disabled, those counted as having fatal foetal abnormality etc. Mankind cannot act as God and decide to deliberately take away their lives. A baby conceived through rape is also entitled to be protected. Why should another crime, i.e. murder, be added to the crime of rape. Again, mankind cannot predict the outcome and should not attempt to act as God. Masters of our leading maternity hospitals have put it on public record that they do not see abortion as a solution to the suicidal feelings of an expectant mother – in fact, they argue that, in the end, it will be most destructive to the mother’s health.     It is natural that a mother- to-be would wish to have and to hold her baby. Even if that baby is born and lives for a very short while, there is great consolation for the parents if she can hold it, even for a few minutes. On a wider scale, I’m very opposed to the creation of “a culture of death” in Ireland. If it is the unborn that are being deliberately killed today, then it could be the elderly or some ethnic group that will be next. That is not civilised living, but savagery worthy of Hitler.

Michael Fitzmaurice-contacted

John McDermott-contacted

Gerry O’Boyle-

UPDATE: OK, as you can see, radio silence from all but two candidates on the contact front. I’ve been looking for contact details for Gerry O’Boyle, but he doesn’t seem to have any online presence.  However, I found this advertisement on the Life Institute website, and it also featured in some of the local papers:

anti choice rosslSo, Ivan Connaughton (FF), Des Guckian (Ind) and Gerry O’Boyle (Ind) are anti-choice. 

P.S. this little mission is inspired by the efforts of the wonderful @sharrow_ie back in may, see how she got on here!