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

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!

Reproductive Rights Are Non-Negotiable

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I am loathe to give any credit to anti-reproductive rights organisation The Life Institute, but they very thoughtfully compiled this little list of candidates that they deem suitable to represent the good holy people of Ireland in Europe. The candiates were asked two questions:

  1. Do you support the repeal of the legislation which permits abortion on suicide grounds, and support making Ireland a place where unborn children are legally protected and mothers get all necessary life-saving treatment in pregnancy?
  2. Will you oppose measures in the European Parliament which seek to liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws and support pro-life measures such as the One of Us campaign?

The independent candidate for Ireland South, and activist with the ‘Ballyhea Says No’ campaign Diarmuid O’Flynn replied as follows:

“On a purely personal level I disagree with that particular legislation and the suicide clause but as stated in the original mail, it is not a European issue, it is a national issue.

The second, absolutely I would oppose any such measures. There are some questions that are for a nation to decide for itself; this is one.”

 The intrepid folk at Broadsheet.ie asked O’Flynn if the quotes attributed to him were correct. 

O’Flynn went on to expand on his opinion on his blog.

He stated:

ABORTION

The ugliest word in the dictionary, leads to the ugliest arguments, the most vile and vitriolic of exchanges. In the recent debate leading to changed legislation following the X-case I stayed out of that debate. I had and have my opinions but they were nobody’s business but my own. I accept however that is no longer the case, that many people have a genuine concern about how I might vote should the subject arise in an EU context. Herewith then, my thinking, and undoubtedly a host of lost votes!

The only occasion on which I can foresee abortion arising in the EU is as an equal rights/civil right issue. I would vigorously oppose any such imposition on Ireland. 

We have been too slow as a nation to introduce and implement equal rights and civil rights legislation over the decades in this country and in that respect our membership of the EEC/EU has been a benefit – they haven’t so much shown us the way as dragged us kicking and screaming into becoming a truly equal society. However, I believe there are already far too many areas in which the EU is now dictating policy that properly belongs to a sovereign government, far too many diktats coming down from on high on issues minor and major. 

Abortion is an area in which we should remain sovereign; this is an issue for Ireland to decide, on its own.

I have further been asked if I would work to reverse that recent legislation on the above-mentioned X-case. This could happen only if I stood for the Dáil – that won’t happen, now or ever. I’m giving politics this one shot; win or lose, that’s it.

Again, however, I can see why people would want to know where I stand on this, even if there IS nothing I can do about that legislation in an official capacity (if elected as an MEP) one way or the other.

Over the years I’ve argued many an issue with my family – my mother, my four sisters, my wife, my daughter, my father, my four brothers, my son, all strong-minded strong-willed independent people – and with my many friends. Abortion has figured occasionally in those discussions. We’ve agreed on various topics, we’ve disagreed, but we’ve always got on, respected each other’s thinking and each other’s decisions. 

To sum up my thoughts on such a complex issue is difficult but has to be done.

There are lots of things I don’t know for certain, which is why dogmatism has never appealed to me. I don’t know if there is a concerned God who watches over everything we do, I don’t know if there’s not; I had all religion battered out of me by the Christian Brothers by the age of 14 (they weren’t too keen on the kind of questions I was asking, not in the 60s) so content myself now with my own spiritualism, my own wonder at and appreciation of the world around us.

I don’t know when life begins. I do know I don’t like to see it deliberately ended. There is life in a foetus, helpless life that needs nourishing and protection. Everything possible should be done to bring that life to the birth stage. 

I believe in the equal right to life of the mother and child. If there is a threat to the life of the mother there should be timely medical intervention to save her life. Every effort should also be made to save the life of the child; if this fails, it fails. Life hurls such tragedies at us and in this family, we haven’t been immune.

I can see why many people believe that such a threat to a mother’s life should include suicide. I don’t agree. I believe this then makes the life of the unborn foetus subservient to the life of the mother. 

Even for the most stable, mentally strong woman, abortion is surely a highly emotive decision. A suicidal prospective mother is already suffering serious emotional stress. An abortion will add to that stress.

In the situation where a suicide threat is deemed real (and I can’t imagine a situation where a professional is going to put her/his entire career on the line by saying ‘Ah, I don’t believe you’), the unborn foetus is aborted, its life ended. But how do we know the threat was real?

On the other hand, if the suicide clause is removed there will certainly be cases where a suicidal prospective mother will take her own life, in which case – even allowing for the fact that very often no-one really knows what triggers such a drastic decision – those of us who would push to have that clause removed stand accused of helping to cause this death.

It’s a lose/lose scenario, a most divisive argument and for very obvious reasons. But there it is. I know that in a situation where I’m going to need every vote I can get this will cost me but given that I’m coming out of nowhere I believe it’s only right people should know who I am.

 

The last paragraph of the piece struck me as fascinating.

So there we are. If those are your do-or-die issues for your favoured MEP candidate I’m probably dead in the water and either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael will take a second seat in the Ireland South constituency, or Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour will take one each. If you take a wider view and prioritise the issues on my manifesto, the issues I see as critical to a new and better Europe and a new and better world, I have a chance.                  

For me, O’Flynn’s comments here epitomise so much of the rhetoric we hear from supposedly “progressive” men. How many times have we heard that feminism is so divisive, and that we should set aside issues like abortion, women’s rights, race, LGBTQ issues and so on to fight a common foe. 

O’Flynn is campaigning under an anti-austerity banner; in his campaign literature he pledges to campaign to reduce the bank-debt burden, to help Ireland move out of recession, and to force retribution from those responsible for the crisis. However, there cannot be economic justice without reproductive rights; the two are inextricably linked. The idea of Reproductive Justice, developed by women of colour activists in the United States, based on the idea that

 reproductive oppression is a result of the intersection of multiple oppressions and is inherently connected to the struggle for social justice and human rights. Women of low economic means suffer consequences from the lack of access to complete health care. Source

Abortion restrictions disproportionately harm marginalized people. This brilliant post on Feminist Ire illustrates this quite powerfully.

Have you been to the doctor? How far along are you? Do you know the further along you are, the more expensive an abortion is? Can you get a loan from a Credit Union? Or will you go to a money lender? Do you have anything you can sell to raise the money? Can you lie to your parents or friends to borrow money? Can you max your credit card? Do you even have a credit card? Are there any bills that you can get away with not paying this month? Have you gone through all your old coats and looked down the back of the sofa? How long will it take for you to get €1,000 together? Can you get an extra €20 off the Community Welfare Officer? Can you not buy coal for the next few weeks? Are you on the dole? Can you use your savings? Can you defer your year at college and save the money for your Master’s Degree again? Is it Christmastime? Can you return any gifts for a refund or sell them for cash?

 

Women with money have options, women with nothing have babies.

 

You cannot claim to be a voice for marginalised people if you mean to oppose reproductive rights. I myself am not in O’Flynn’s constituency, but if I was, I am afraid he would not be getting a vote from me. Any person who would oppose my right to bodily autonomy and my dignity is not someone I would want as a representative.

 

  

 

 

The Year in Misogyny (Irish Edition)

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Content note: rape, violence against women, anti-choice rhetoric, misogyny

It’s that time of year when we’re all casting our minds back over the last 12 months and reflecting on the highs and lows, and what we’ve learned as we’ve gone along. I’ve been looking back at my bookmarks, blog posts and tumblr scribblings and have been struck by how depressingly far Irish society still has to go in terms of achieving equality. Here are (in no particular order) some examples of the misogyny that made women fume this year.

The Slane Girl Controversy: The last few days of summer were dominated by discussion of this infamous Slane photo. I wrote at the time about the horrible slut-shaming double standard at play here, as did others. On a more positive note, the #slanegirlsolidarity tag was flooded with messages of support, and ‘I’m Spartacus’ type statements from other women who could empathise with the girl’s plight. 

The Irish Justice System: It seemed that hardly a week went by in 2013 without reading about a case of violence against women or girls that saw the attacker walk free, or face minimal sanctions. One horrifying case that was heard in Ennis court back in November involved a man attacking a woman in her own home with a metal  bar, who would walk away a free man, despite admitting his guilt. One judge, Martin Nolan has attained quite a reputation for his handling of similar cases, as a quick browse of the depressing ”judge of the day” tag on broadsheet.ie will attest. An Cailin Rua wrote a masterful piece on this very topic that I urge you all to read.

Rape Culture: This entry and the previous one are interchangeable in many respects. Rape culture is a term used to describe how society creates a hostile environment for rape victims, and often engages in apologism for perpetrators. There were several examples that I could pluck from the Irish media in 2013, but none exemplifies rape culture more so than the case of John Murray, the former Lord Mayor of Cork, and the priest who hijacked a funeral to urge the congregation to offer prayers that he would be cleared of sexual assault charges. We see this scenario time and time again; a powerful or wealthy man commits a sexually violent crime, and everyone from the clergy to the judiciary to the general public leaps to their defence, emphasising their family status and reputation,  with little regard for the feelings of the victim.

Anti-choice Nastiness: The last year has seen the anti-choice movement sinking to lower and lower odious depths. Youth Defence, as ever, have been central to proceedings, with antics ranging from the utterly hideous (the truck in question was parked close to a rape crisis centre) to the surreal (via OireachtasRetort’s tumblr). As legislation became increasingly likely and abortion once again became the subject of increased public debate, a succession of campaigners and politicians appeared on current affairs shows and proceeded to show their asses. It was the year of “abortion mills” and other choice epithets, as exemplified by Peter Mathew’s now infamous appearance on Vincent Browne. Thankfully, some light relief came in the form of this beautifully observed anti-choice bingo card and the Tara Flynn sketch ‘Judge, Jury and Obstetrician’.  

Our Abortion Laws (still): Legislating for the X case finally became a reality this summer (only 21 years on) with the passing of  the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. However, for many advocates of reproductive rights, it was a somewhat bittersweet occasion, the horrific section 22,  which recommends a jail sentence of FOURTEEN YEARS for those who have terminations outside of the law and the fact that the bill simply does not go far enough. Irish people will still be travelling to the UK and elsewhere in their droves, and until the reprehensible Eighth Amendment is removed, nothing will change in a meaningful way.

We’ve come a long way, but it’s clear we have a long, long way to go. Ireland, do better in 2014.

Today in Irish Patriarchy

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Three news stories that dominated my newsfeeds today show just how far Irish society has to go before it can dismantle the patriarchy that still runs through this place like letters through a stick of rock.

The last few days have seen a shameful outpouring of online misogyny following the uploading of the Slane photo. A young woman has been slut-shamed and subjected to unbelievably vile abuse by dozens of strangers, much to detriment of her own mental health. I’ve already expressed my thoughts on this here, so I’m don’t have much left to say on the subject, other than express my utter disgust and contempt at the fact that in this day and age, a young girl needs to be hospitalised for being seen as somehow less than human.

The second story is that of the 17-year-old girl who took a sexual harassment case against her former employers. The girl was subjected to a horrendous levels of sexual harassment:

She started work in June 2008 and was told not to speak to her mother, who worked in the same Dublin store. She alleged that two supervisors started making inappropriate sexual remarks to her.

They told her: “You are only letting on to be a little Virgin Mary to your mammy, we know what you really are,” and: “You are nothing but a little hypocrite, you little Virgin Mary.”

She alleged that the two supervisors taunted her at work by asking whether she was a virgin and whether or not she was performing oral sex. They also told her mother that her daughter would come home pregnant from her holidays.

This story of male sexual entitlement, intimidation and misogyny is sadly all too common in Irish workplaces.

The concurrence of the Slane story and the “Virgin Mary” store also is a perfect illustration of the bullshit virgin/whore dichotomy, a girl can only be a dirty slut or a frigid prude, but in neither case is deserving of any respect. 

The final story that made my blood boil today was that of a UL student, Úna Roddy, who was refused the pill by her family doctor.  The paternalistic attitude of the doctor was enraging, but sadly unsurprising. 

Dr X began by assuming I had a boyfriend if I wanted to go on the pill, when in fact my relationship status is none of his business or anybody else’s. He didn’t seem to understand the fact that this is the 21st century and my contraception and my relationship status are two completely unrelated things. He then went on to declare that “co habiting” (he made little quotation marks with his hands) couples had a higher rate of break ups than married couples. He also threw in the fact that ‘fellas’ often experience so much they don’t know what to settle for. Aside from the fact that I’m not something to settle for, it really didn’t seem to register that I was having sex because I wanted to – not because my imaginary boyfriend did.

That this kind of archaic moralism can trump a woman’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy is utterly depressing and an affront to us all. 

Why, in TWENTY FUCKING THIRTEEN is a hashtag like #slanegirlsolidarity still necessary? Why can’t a woman do a day’s work without being harassed? Why can’t a young woman avail of basic healthcare without being lectured and patronised? The answer is simple folks-patriarchy. 

Patriarchy. Misogyny. These aren’t swear words, folks. Recognise them for what they are, and don’t let anyone dare tell you that feminism is no longer necessary.

 

 

Victory?

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Content note: hostility to agency, anti-choice rhetoric, suicide

So, it’s happened. The Dáil has passed the second stage of Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill by 138 votes to 24. While I’m pleased that our elected representatives have finally ensured that pregnancy need no longer be a death sentence for a woman, I don’t really feel like celebrating. I’ve outlined in an old post why I believe this legislation does not go far enough, but having reflected on it more in the meantime, I’ve come to the conclusion that, not only is this legislation too narrow in its remit, it is actively harmful. It is too restrictive, too punitive, with its terms almost feeling like an Inquisition of the Pregnant.

The reprehensible section 22,  which recommends a jail sentence of FOURTEEN YEARS for those who have terminations outside of the law absolutely needs to go. It is cruel, inhumane and cements abortion stigma in the law of the land. It conjures up for me a vision of a future where a suicidal pregnant woman who has been denied an abortion, but survives an attempt to take her own life  is convicted under this law because the pregnancy was ended. It paves the way for a repeat of the horrendous story of Bei Bei Shuai in Indiana, USA. Even if this law is *never* fully enforced, its mere existence  it creates a climate of fear and shame, and places women who have abortions outside the terms of this legislation into a category alongside some of the most violent, most heinous criminals out there.

A referendum needs to be held to repeal the Eighth Amendment.  We absolutely need to legislate for abortion in the case of fatal foetal abnormalities and for pregnancies arising from rape and incest, that’s a given; I’d go further, and argue that we need to legislate for abortion on request. In my ideal world, a person who was pregnant and no longer wanted to be should be able to end their pregnancy safely and legally.

In an Irish context, given our oppressive history and long-standing hostility to abortion and reproductive justice, the success of this bill is a massive breakthrough, I accept this. However, I’d have a bit more of a spring in my step this evening if this legislation was less, well, anti-choice.